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Days of Leisure?

The company I work for occasionally offers discount tickets to the odd event or amusement park. But for the first time in 8 years, they gave their employees and family members the opportunity to visit Atlanta’s High Museum for free! Shockers! The moment I saw that I knew I was going.

I haven’t been to the High since I was in High school. And honestly, my memories from that visit are far more centered around seeing the city and time spent with friends. The High has since expanded and taken on a revolving exhibition with works on loan through a partnership with the Louvre. Every since that began, I’ve had the best of intentions to go see this exhibit. And as the list of things I wanted to see grew, it didn’t happen. This free day at the High seemed like providence giving me a nudge.

I intended to get an early start today. I was planning to take my camera and take advantage of time in the city to wander about and get some street shots. Whenever I’m going somewhere and there’s not a definitive time table, such as a flight to catch, my intentions however well meant are of little consequence. As such, I left on time to catch the beginning of the five hour window for which we had free admission.

I did the good thing and took MARTA, and for a change I don’t have any real horror stories. For the longest time, I seemed to collect them on MARTA despite using it with great frequency in the two years I lived intown. When compared to most large city transportation, it’s still incredibly slow and limited in where it gets you, but it got me there and back cheaper than gas and parking would have cost, so no complaints in this instance.

At the High, I spent about four and a half hours on my feet… wow… I got my free admissions’ worth plus a few other peoples. I took in nearly all if not all of the regular exhibitions, and found a new painter I quite like, William Stanley Haseltine. It’s actually humorous that I entered one room in the High and saw this painting that I immediately knew had to be Capri, having been there two years ago. It was gorgeous and familiar. Turns out the artist was an 19th century American landscape painter who also spent some time in Italy.

Next up was to check out the Annie Leibovitz exhibition of her work as a photographer from 1990 to 2005. It’s a traveling exhibition, and it’s sharing a floor with an American figure painter, Cecilia Beaux. She did high society portraits in the latter 19th and early 20th century.

Obviously I’d heard of Ms. Leibovitz before as she’s done some amazing work throughout my life. The exhibition (and the book that accompanies it) runs photos of her own life alongside her work as a professional photographer documenting pop culture, politics, and more. Some truly amazing work. I thought seriously about getting the book, but I figured correctly that I could get it at a better rate off of Amazon, and I’ve added it to my wish list there.

Ms. Beaux was a new acquaintance. Her paintings were quite gorgeous. Apparently according to the information presented, since paintings of the well to do declined in interest, her star fell a little bit over the years, but there’s been a recent renewal in interest. Well deserved I can attest.

Next up was the Louvre exhibit. Quite a feather in Atlanta’s cap to be sure. The current exhibition has art and everyday objects from Versailles. Everyday objects are, of course, relative. They would be opulent to most of us, who don’t ready ourselves in the morning with silver jars of creams, silver mirrors and candlesticks, or carry fine wooden boxes with custom tea and hot chocolate service inside. The audio tour that went along with it was well done. I listened to virtually all of it. I have to say there were a few objects of furniture I skipped. Maybe a poor decision but that style of furnishing, overly fussy French baroque stuff, is something I’ve just never appreciated.

All in all, it was a nice if tiring afternoon. And the High is an incredible asset to Atlanta. I have some mixed feelings in the end, though. The Louvre exhibit, for all it’s esteem, isn’t that large. Because I have traveled to Europe, I’ve already seen larger collections of Renaissance art. I’m not trying to be snobby, it’s an observation. For those who have not or perhaps will never have the opportunity, by all means, you should take in these exhibits. How often in America do you get to see a Rembrandt or busts from the 1st century?

I think in the end, the High’s strengths, or at least my favorite parts of the High, are the exhibitions of more modern art, 19th and 20th century paintings, furnishings, and other artwork. I am sure I spent more time looking at Stickley and Eames furniture, checking out American Quilts, and the early photography exhibition than I spent on the far more crowded Louvre exhibit.

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