On a Long Winter Break

Walking Off the Big Apple, like a bear in winter, is currently taking a long winter's nap. When the days grow warmer in the springtime, you may see increasing signs of activity.

Or not. We may have reached the end of this journey.

Life goes on in the city, and new adventures await. We shall see.


For now, though, enjoy the past decade of WOTBA adventures, and the ones of your own creation.

Note: The FB page for Walking Off the Big Apple is also currently asleep. You may also remember that this website bid a fond farewell in 2013 and then came back in 2015. There are no easy endings in blogland.

New York City Fall Calendar 2018

Vernon Duke (1903-1969), né Vladimir Dukelsy, wrote the music and lyrics for "Autumn in New York," the jazz standard that originated in the 1934 Broadway musical Thumbs Up!. The bittersweet lyrics call forth the sight of autumn in the big city, "the promise of new love," and a grateful acceptance of inevitable change and loss.

Autumn in Central Park, New York City

No wonder Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Holiday, Johnny Mathis, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Mel Tormé, and a hundred of other crooners wanted to record such a wistful song. The notes themselves, falling like leaves, were enough for the likes of Charlie Parker and the Modern Jazz Quartet. Read more, and listen.

The calendar includes most major events through the fall season. A New York City Winter Calendar will be published in December.

Seasonal Changes

• Peak fall foliage
The peak fall foliage in NYC usually occurs in late October and the first two weeks of November, coinciding with Halloween festivities and the New York City Marathon.

The NYC Parks website maintains a list of fall foliage events around the city’s parks.

Autumn colors uptown. At the Met Cloisters with a view of the George Washington Bridge

Great places to enjoy fall colors include the Bronx Zoo, Wave Hill, Fort Tryon Park, Inwood Hill Park, Central Park, and Prospect Park.

• First frost date
According to the Victory Seeds company website, the average first frost in NYC is October 27.

• Fall bird migration
September and October are the months to watch for fall bird migration. Keep an eye our for hawks and bald eagles as well as song bird migration.

• Weather maps
The National Weather Service has issued 3-month probability maps for temperature and precipitation in the U.S. The maps indicate the probability of a warmer and wetter season than normal. 

Delacroix’s Cats

Following its record-breaking debut at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the blockbuster Delacroix exhibit has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While not all of the works could travel, as some are intrinsic to the Louvre, the big cats made the trip to the city. For the Delacroix exhibit poster, the Met has selected Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, the artist’s great and surprising painting from 1830, as the signature and defining work of the exhibition.

Eugène Delacroix, (French, 1798–1863). Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother (Study of Two Tigers), 1830. Oil on canvas, 52 x 76.6 in. (130 x 195 cm). Musée du Louvre, Paris. © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) / Franck Raux

Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863), known as the leading Romantic painter of his era, loved cats. His many notebooks show preparatory sketches of lions, tigers, and several charming domestic cats. The big cats, for the most part, made it into big paintings. At 52 x 76.6 in. (130 x 195 cm), Young Tiger Playing with Its Mother, 1830, is astonishingly large for an animal painting of his time, a size normally devoted to a history painting. His most famous work, La Liberté guidant le peuple, dates from the same year. 

When Young Tiger was shown at the Salon in Paris in 1831, critics could hardly get over it. Why did Delacroix feel so moved to paint such a scene?

“This unusual artist has never painted a man who looks like a man in the way his tiger looks like a tiger.”

In the 1820s, the artist made several visits to the Jardin des Plantes and Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle in Paris. He shared how he felt in his notebook:

"Extraordinary animals! … I had a feeling of happiness as soon as I entered the place and the further I went the stronger it grew. I felt my whole being rise above commonplaces and trivialities and the petty worries of my daily life. What an immense variety of animals and species of different shapes and functions! At every turn, I saw what we call deformity side by side with what seems to us to be beauty and grace of form… The tigers, the panthers, the jaguars, the lions, etc. Why is it that these things have stirred me so much? Can it be because I have gone outside the everyday thoughts that are my world; away from the street that is my entire universe? How necessary it is to give oneself a shake from time to time, to stick one’s head out of doors and try to read from the book of life that has nothing in common with cities and the works of man. No doubt about it, this excursion has done me good and has made me feel better and calmer.” (L. Norton, trans., The Journal of Eugène Delacroix, London, 1995, pp. 57-58)

While an embrace of wild nature and emotions are characteristic of the Romantic movement, there’s something almost Zen-like in Delacroix’s reaction. Delacroix says the big cats “made me feel better and calmer.” By focusing on his observation of the animals, leisurely at one moment but able to strike swiftly into action in the next, the painter could form an identification of sorts.

Delacroix at the Met Fifth Avenue

One critic noted of the Young Tiger painting, quoted on the exhibit label: “This unusual artist has never painted a man who looks like a man in the way his tiger looks like a tiger.” On display at the Met are several sketches of big cats, including ones in the nearby exhibition, Devotion to Drawing: The Karen B. Cohen Collection of Eugene Delacroix. The artist returned to painting tigers in later years.

Delacroix extended his big cat devotion to lions. On display are sketches and a fragment of The Lion Hunt, part of a series of three large paintings inspired by Peter Paul Rubens' The Lion Hunt, c. 1621, and the artist’s trip to Morocco, Algeria, and Spain in 1832. He painted these works toward the end of life, throwing himself into expressing the lions with a youthful vivacity. Painting big cats gave the artist inner calm and a sense of inner strength. 

Entrance to the exhibition. Portrait d'Eugène Delacroix 1842, first known photograph of Delacroix by his cousin Léon Riesener. The Met Fifth Avenue.

Delacroix includes more than 150 paintings, drawings, and notebooks showing the full range of his preoccupations and subject matter, all told in chronological order. The exhibit continues at the Met Fifth Avenue through January 6, 2019. The Met Store also offers images of the tigers on a scarf, a tote, and postcards, and a tiger motif on bangles.

Exhibit images by Walking Off the Big Apple from September 16, 2018.

Met Museum website.

Starstruck at MoMA

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Midtown Manhattan is undergoing a significant renovation and expansion that will increase gallery space by thirty percent upon completion in 2019. In the midst of renovation and following a long hot summer, the museum may currently look a little rough around the edges and even disorienting for longtime patrons. For starters, you’ll need to enter the museum on W. 54th Street instead of W. 53rd Street while the work is taking place, and the museum store is now currently on the second floor next to the coffee bar which has also moved.

W. 54th Street entrance, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

This state of affairs didn’t stop visitors on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend from making a pilgrimage to the museum to gaze at treasures of modern art. In an age of quickly disposable digital imagery, the original and cherished works still exude their aura. Ironically, the most famous paintings are the most “grammable.”

The museum’s collection includes many stars of modern art, including Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889). The painting is one of the most recognizable in the world, with countless reproductions and a soundtrack for the artist, courtesy of singer-songwriter Don McLean. Inspired by a bright morning star Van Gogh saw from his asylum window in southern France, the painting depicts a dreamlike and turbulent sky dancing over the sleeping village below. You know the painting. A dark cypress tree in the foreground and a church steeple rise up to touch the swirling firmament. It’s not hard to locate The Starry Night, because dozens of people will be crowded around it and taking pictures.

The glass walls at MoMA allow views of the surrounding buildings of Midtown, a mix of classic and modern styles.  

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (1914-26), Pablo Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907), and Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 (1950) also grew plenty of onlookers and picture-takers. Of course, looking at these original paintings with the naked eye is preferable to taking pictures of them. In addition, just thinking about the physical and emotional energy invested by the artist in creating these works is humbling, especially compared with the ease of snapping a quick photo on a digital device. Imagine the great upper body energy it took Pollock to drip the paint on the large canvas. They don’t call this “action painting” for nothing. Nevertheless, if you are a person who loves art, being around fellow museum-goers can be comforting, even when far too many of them block good views of the canvas or go trophy hunting for the next celebrity painting.

View of MoMA's sculpture garden
  
The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden has always attracted visitors during pleasant weather. The outdoor space was pristine this past weekend. The sculpture, the dappled light, the sights and sounds of the fountains, and the greenery reconfirmed the garden as one of the most restorative oases in Midtown. The big hit with the kids was Snowman (2016), a man of snow preserved in a freezer by Peter Fischli (Swiss, b. 1952) and David Weiss (Swiss, 1946–2012). The work is part of Fischli’s curated selection of sculpture from MoMA’s collection, temporarily on display as part of a special exhibition. 

Plans for the museum’s expansion, developed by MoMA with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Gensler, are also on display. The overall idea of the expansion involves more connectivity among gallery spaces, more performance space, more light, more air, more staircases (including the extension of the Bauhaus staircase to other floors), more elevators, and more coat checks. Amidst the expansion of exhibition space, The Starry Night will still be there.

Images from September 1, 2018 by Walking Off the Big Apple.

Resources:
The Museum of Modern Art website

Related on this website:

New York Museum Exhibitions: Fall Preview

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

About Walking Off the Big Apple

Walking Off the Big Apple features self-guided tours to neighborhoods, streets, cultural history, good books, architecture, museums, parks, landscapes, and offbeat travel experiences in New York City.

Older posts will sometimes be updated to reflect relevant changes in the city, i.e. store or restaurant closings or transit information.

Writer and editor Teri Tynes created Walking Off the Big Apple in the summer of 2007.

As of January 2018, this website is updated only during bouts of nostalgia or when the writer feels compelled to share a fresh museum calendar.