a jewel of a museum

Woman with a Lute, Johannes Vermeer

Lured by the prospect of a lecture on Johannes Vermeer, I visited the Norton Simon Museum for the first time on Saturday. The lecture wasn’t until 4 so Michelle and I drove up early and had our monthly writer’s meeting there in the Garden Cafe right next to a waterlily pond reminiscent of Monet’s painting. After our meeting, we strolled through the sculpture garden fascinated by Henry Moore’s abstract and organic shapes, and visited the Impressionist gallery. I didn’t know that Degas sculpted–there was an intriguing collection of ballet dancer figures in various moods and poses, but the main attraction for me was the Vermeer, Woman with a Lute–my first time viewing an original Vermeer. Among the Dutch genre painters, his luminous paintings giving peeks into private moments are my favorites.

The lecture, Vermeer Women: Discreet Objects of Desire, was given by Walter Liedtke, Curator of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He gave a fascinating presentation and was so passionately involved in his subject that what was supposed to be an hour’s lecture turned into an hour and 45 minutes. I was surprised to learn that Vermeer self-edited his paintings as he worked on them. I always think painters know exactly what they’re aiming for when painting and the work goes down perfectly composed, but even while composing a painting, the painter makes a multitude of creative decisions and changes his mind with the flow of his thoughts–just like a writer.

After the lecture, there were refreshments in the reception lobby–a delicious white wine, canapes and cookies. Michelle and I decided we’d have our writer’s meeting once a year at the Norton Simon–a jewel of a museum.