A bright moment on a cold and snowy Saturday at Greenmarket in Union Square was my visit to the National Arts Club to see an exhibition of paintings and etchings by J. W. Middendorf and his daughter Frances.
In New York you can go an exhibition at a museum during market hours, given competent market help which I am fortunate to have, or go to a play after you fold your tent for the day. The sheep don't care what you do there as long as you bring back enough money to feed them.
The temperature outside was just below freezing and I was dressed for it. But going up Park Avenue South to the Club located on Gramercy Park I did wonder if the doorman would let me in; I was, by all appearances, a street person who slept on subway grates to stay warm, with two pair of pants under my old and ragged Carhart insulated overalls and a two-sizes too big barn coat over my 3 shirts. Plus I had my clunky waterproof Muck books on, the ones I slog around the barnyard in, but the nice thing was that I didn't have to turn and jump over the puddles as the fashionably but ill shod New Yorkers did walking along the slushy avenue with expressions of furtive pain on their faces like they were being pelted by molten lava when they were touched by a floating snowflake, I splashed straight ahead—"Damn the torpedoes"—I was someone who walked on water.
At the red lights, to myself and to the imaginary doorman, I rehearsed in a droll and innocent manner, "I say old boy, is there a show of etchings here?" like I were William Powell playing the suave and tuxedoed Nick Charles in The Thin Man to whom no door is closed.
It worked. "Downstairs and to the right," I was told. "Will the artists be here?" I asked in passing. The man at the door shrugged, "On a day like today..." We smiled knowingly, even though we knew different things. I was in. Now where was Myrna Loy?
The mission of the National Arts Club is to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts.
To enter the Club is to step back in time to a 19th century overstuffed elegance that Edith Wharton might have written about and to rub elbows with celebrated American artists who were members, Frederic Remington, Robert Henri and George Bellows to name but a few.
The first gallery was devoted to Frances and what impressed me were her watercolors; I had seen her drawings before after Cesare Pavese poems but never had I seen her work in color. Very nice.
The second gallery featured her father's etchings of the circus and a favorite of mine was an etching of high trapeze aerialists, one caught up in the air, and upside down, but so composed with his arms at his sides. So trusting.
Delightful to see the works of father and daughter in the same gallery and at the same time.
Paintings and Etchings by Frances Middendorf and J. W. Middendorf at The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South NYC through January 28, 2012.
Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock