Seeing this essay is so serendipitous! My daughter and I were just in Philly, spur-of-the-moment, over Christmas break. And like you, we tried twice to get into the Barnes, but ended up enjoying the Franklin Institute instead! I would have planned a meet-up with you if we'd been more organized, but the spontaneity made most of our excursions, well, spontaneous.
We loved all the historic sites, cobblestoned neighborhoods in Old City, and urban life around Rittenhouse Square where we stayed. Interestingly, we did manage to hook up with an old, bi-Coastal friend (a history professor in PA but we became friends as art docents in CA). We met up at a restaurant near the Barnes with her 2 kids. It was delightfully raucous, which garnered us plenty of stares from the solemn diners in the other tables. Sound familiar to you? And I nearly felt sorry for our server. Here we all were, inspired by the spirit of Benjamin Franklin's Junto jumping enthusiastically from History to Chemistry, Art to Literature, politics to religion. And our server was caught in these verbal volleys with no opening for a menu discussion. In any case, your observation on the sad case for art appreciation these days resonated. Renoir himself complained that to be taken seriously, one had to present "art in a frock coat." Of course, his paintings express so much joy - frock coat completely torn off! Well, as you pointed out, Neil Gaiman's approach to life seems far more brilliant.
We will definitely be back in Philly -- to visit the Barnes and the Archaeology Museum which we missed among other things. I certainly hope we get to meet up then!
And I just saw that Roz is publishing her own book. So absolutely thrilled for both of you!
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