A Painting, a List and a Road Trip

A Painting, a List and a Road Trip

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent, 1885-86, 68.5″ x 60.5″

Some days I sit down with my eyes closed and dream of times long ago.  I think of Charles and what we were doing on a particular day or time. . .

August 1997.

I had never heard the term “bucket list” in 1997.  Maybe it didn’t exist then.  But the concept did.  It must come from the phrase “to kick the bucket” meaning to die. . . A list of things one must do before one kicks the bucket.

In my head I had a list of “must-dos before I die.” One of them was a “must-see” painting by American painter John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) – the magical Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose (1885-86).  I remember first seeing the colorful image of nature and childhood innocence projected on a screen in a college art history class:

Two young girls lighting Chinese paper lanterns in a haunting pink and lavender flowered twilight.

I dreamed of being one of the girls.

When I discovered the painting was coming to the United States from the Tate in London in the summer of 1997, I had to find a way to go – it was on my list!

I had to convince Charles we should make the nine hour and thirty-nine minute drive to see it.  I knew I could.

The painting was in the exhibition Uncanny Spectacle: The Public Career of the Young John Singer Sargent at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (The Clark) in Williamstown, Massachusetts – the pastoral New England town with leafy trees and luscious lawns in the midst of the magnificent Berkshire Mountains.

Thirty-five Sargent paintings were in the exhibition including the notorious portrait of Madame Pierre Gautreau – Madame X.

Road trip. Mountains.Museum. Madame X. Charles was convinced.

We made it to Williamstown in record time and after a full night’s rest we drove to The Clark museum.

I felt like I was stepping into the pages of a fairy tale as I walked into the exhibition and the painting’s warm glow.

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