Archive for June 17th, 2009

Jules Breton "Le Soir"My first real exposure to genuine art came when I was a kid in the early 70’s, going to school at Ernie Davis Junior High on Elmira’s east side.  My father worked at the Sheriff’s Department which was just several blocks away so after school I would walk down there to ride home with him.  It beat the school bus ride which could be a real drag because I was the first kid picked up in the morning and one of the last dropped off at night, an hour or so each way.

So after school I would head downtown where I often ended up at the Newberry’s store that had an old pinball machine tucked away in the corner of it’s basement, hidden among the knick knacks and housewares.  Great machine.  Only a dime a play.  Spent too much time there.  More often though I ended up at the old Steele Memorial Library, a beautiful old Carnegie endowed structure that was like a treasure chest.  I spent hundreds of hours there, reading and exploring the stacks behind the reception desk that you entered by climbing a tight cast iron stairway.  What a great atmosphere.

But the other place downtown that caught my attention was the Arnot Art Museum.  It was located in an old mansion and was free to the public at the time.  They had ( and have) a wonderful permanent collection of paintings, a real surprise for a small city like Elmira, and I was mesmerized by the group in the main parlor.  The piece that caught me was the Jules Breton painting above, Le Soir.  It glowed on the wall there and the beauty of the surface and the sense of place and time were palpable.  For a 14 year old, it was heady stuff and often I would head into the Arnot to just spend a few minutes with the Breton and some of my other favorites there.  The Brueghel.  The Millet.  There was a great sense of calmness there and to this very day whenever I enter that place I am taken back to those days as a shaggy haired kid dragging my denim gym bag through the doors to see that Breton painting.

Below are a couple of other Bretons, not at my Arnot Museum…Breton song of the larkJules Breton the weeders

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