Sunday, June 17, 2007

We Will Roll Out The Red Carpet

We all had a nice time at the lake this weekend. It was peaceful, and quiet, and relaxing.

We got the house ready for the week of July 4, which really did not involve much work. We vacuumed, and dusted, and made up the beds, but otherwise there was little to do.

This weekend we read books in preparation for our trip to London in September.

My mother read only one book, a biography of George IV by E. A. Smith. My father and Josh and I had already read the book, and it is a serious biography of a serious man, although somewhat more revisionist in tone than many reviewers were prepared to accept at the time of its publication.

After Charles I, George IV was the greatest of Britain’s royal collectors and--unlike Charles I’s collection, sold and disbursed after his beheading--all of George IV’s collection remains in the hands of the British Royal Family. George IV had astonishing taste and judgment and--unlike his father, George III, another great collector--he did not need to rely upon art experts to advise him what to acquire. He was an acute judge of painting and furniture and porcelain, much of which he had agents in France purchase, at bargain prices, during and after The French Revolution. Much of the artwork George IV acquired remains on display in the Buckingham Palace State Rooms, which we will visit.

The George IV collection of Sevres porcelain, alone, is jaw-dropping. Normally, porcelain is something in which I have no interest whatsoever, but the porcelain George IV acquired from French aristocrats, desperate to sell whatever they could while the Revolution and its aftermath proceeded, is of the greatest possible quality and interest and beauty, one of the two finest such collections in the world (the other is also in London, at Hertford House, home of The Wallace Collection).

My father and Josh and I read three books, which we shared back and forth, none of which was designed necessarily to be read straight through.

One book was V. S. Pritchett’s “London Perceived”, the 1962 classic, recently re-published, a collection of Pritchett essays accompanied by Evelyn Hofer’s black-and-white photographs of London. We read this book on my mother’s recommendation. Pritchett’s essays about London are perceptive and eloquent and beautifully-written, or so I thought, and I enjoyed this book very much, and so did Josh, and so did my father.

Another book was “The Houses Of Parliament: History, Art, Architecture”, a collection of essays and photographs about the current Palace Of Westminster, edited by Christine and Jacqueline Riding. This is a magnificent book, with magnificent essays and magnificent photographs, and an essential publication for anyone interested in the Houses Of Parliament, whether as a building or as an institution. We will be touring the Houses Of Parliament in September, and we enjoyed this book very much. My mother will read it next week.

The third book was “Millais: Portraits”, a publication issued in 1999 in conjunction with a special exhibition of the portraits of John Everett Millais at London’s National Portrait Gallery. This book contains many excellent reproductions of Millais portraits, as well as four excellent, extended essays about Millais’s work in this genre, and I found the book to be fascinating, and so did Josh, and so did my father. There are many, many Millais paintings on display at Tate Britain, and we will be visiting Tate Britain in September. This book is a valuable commentary on Millais’s place among British painters of the Victorian period. My mother had already read the book.

There are two large museums in London that we plan to explore to exhaustion, from soup to nuts, while we are in London, and Tate Britain is one of those museums.

Tonight, when we got home, Josh and I talked to his mother and father, and we learned that his family wants to come to Minneapolis in July to visit us. This is splendid news.

The plan, as it stands now, is for Josh’s Mom and Dad to take Josh’s younger brother and sister on a swing through some baseball cities—in order, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago and Saint Louis—and visit some ballparks, and see some baseball, and see and do some other things along the way.

The trip will have to be in July, because in August Josh’s younger brother starts football practice, which involves grueling twice-daily practice sessions long before the official school term starts.

We are very excited. Josh’s family has never visited us in Minneapolis, and we are exceedingly pleased that they want to come for a visit. For the first time, Josh’s family will get to see where he and I live, and work, and spend our free time.

We will roll out the red carpet.

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