There’s one perfect fit. And, sugar, this one is it.

We saw a special exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art while in town for the holiday. Three of Monet’s water lilies panels were reunited for the first time in decades. I know some people are sick of Monet and his water lilies but I have to confess something. We got there when the museum opened and while standing in an empty, dimly-lit gallery in front of these three master works, I had a moment. Something washed over me. I’m not a skilled enough writer or photographer to replicate the sensation. But whatever Monet intended, for that one fleeting moment, it worked. I got it.

Cleveland owns the panel on the left. The others are in the St. Louis Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, which seems idiotic when you see them together. This is clearly one painting, not three. Broken apart, they seem incomplete. Not whole.

Water Lilies (Agapanthus), c. 1915-26


I walked into the gallery and saw The Daughter sitting in front of the paintings. I thought she was talking on her cell phone and it made me blue. But she wasn’t. She was listening to the audio guide. So that’s a small victory.

I love the Cleveland Museum of Art. It’s a world-class collection that rivals those in New York, Paris or London. And that’s not one of my witty sarcasms. It’s the truth. When I walk through the galleries and see the permanent collection, it’s like visiting old friends.

Bonus track. Mysterious and haunting.

Jean-Léon Gérôme
Woman with a Veil
Bronze, c. 1891




I was unaware of stroke prevention but I already knew that coffee prevents suicide.

100 thoughts on “There’s one perfect fit. And, sugar, this one is it.

  1. I can imagine what you were feeling, because those three panels do look like a Garden of Eden which your daughter could walk into.

    I never understood why coffee had a bad reputation because I never saw any facts against it. I’m glad you can now quaff it with a clean conscience!

    • The beautiful vibe was compromised when the gallery filled up with people. I like people except when I’m trying to enjoy some art. Then I hate crowds.

      Pish. I never felt bad about my coffee addiction. I just feel vindicated, is all.

  2. Now I have that sappy song stuck in my head! You should have done a “vlog” on this one… you could have narrated and had that song playing in the background! LOL!

    I can’t wait to see it – always traveling over Thanksgiving, but planning on seeing it over Christmas break very soon. That photo of your daughter should be framed and hanging in your house! Were you able to see anything else that was noteworthy while you were in the CLE?

    • Ding! Ding! Ding! You win the prize! I was wondering if anyone would notice. I seriously thought it could slip by without anyone making a comment.

      Listen…that exhibit is only open through December. After that, it goes to London. It’s an extraordinary opportunity for Clevelanders. Try not to miss it.

      As I mentioned at your place, we had dinner at the White Oaks. I also saw The English Beat at the Music Box down in the flats. Lots of family stuff, too.

  3. We spent the day and night in Cleveland last night so we could catch the Cavs game and go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We only live about 40 minutes away, but it was a birthday gift for me so we stayed at a hotel downtown. Now I wish we would’ve taken in the art museum too. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been there. Next time, I guess.

    • Did you go to that Cavs/Brooklyn Nets game???!!!. So so LUCKY. A buzzer-beater. We are kicking ourselves that we didn’t go. It’s my fault. I didn’t look into tickets. Sure wish I would’ve. How was the Hall of Fame? I haven’t been there in a few years. Maybe it’s time for a visit. What was the special exhibit?

      • It was an unbelievable game! To see them win in the last two seconds was incredible, especially when they were behind the majority of the game. And now with the huge screens they have, it doesn’t matter how high up you sit (we were very high up). It was a lot of fun.

        I’m not sure what the special exhibit was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Oops.

      • You couldn’t have picked a better game. I’ll bet the tickets weren’t cheap. I don’t have the heart to tell my daughter about the last second basket. It would’ve been something she’d never have forgotten. She’ll just have to settle for the art museum. It’s a shame you can’t turn back time.

      • If I could turn back time, I’d skip the breakfast I ate this morning. Pancakes like rubbery dough balls.

        I’m not sure what my husband paid for the tickets, but I don’t think it was too bad since the seats were so far up. He got them a while ago in anticipation of my birthday. Awwwww.

  4. Our Albright Knox Gallery just opened a Monet/Impressionist exhibit, which will run until March. I intend to get there, and I was extremely surprised when Hubby expressed interest in seeing it, too. You post reminds me that I need to make reservations ASAP. Thanks.

  5. I guess I get a point for drinking coffee.
    But I like a lot of Renoir.And not all of Monet.Mind you, had I seen the full Water Lilies I may have been impressed.
    I followed the link to the Rembrandt. I could live with that!
    I mention art on Idle Thoughts today.No 17th century etchings, I’m afraid.

    • Well, you’d better get a move on. It’s only here another month.

      How’s the Mr.? Is his healing on schedule? Please pass along my greetings/salutations. Love the pic of him with the cone. So he won’t hurt himself, right?

      • I’ll try, but life is busy-crunchy these days. He’s driving and was back to work part time last week! Impressive recovery, but still moving slow… The cone was to keep him from licking the stitches. It was a joke… They didn’t discharge him with it!

      • Back to work?! He has the constitution of a 20-year old. Never mind moving slow. That he’s moving at all is miraculous. I know they didn’t discharge him with that cone but it would have been funnier if they had.

  6. I love Monet. He has an ethereal spirit to his work that washes away the damage within you.

    Right – time to up the caffeine! Oh and apparently, red wine is the same as a workout in the gym. Good times.

  7. This art I like very much and gee you and your daughter were so fortunate to see in “real time” Monet’s panel of lilies. It is pretty dumb to have separated those panel. Those are painting that definitely need to remain together.

    At first glace I thought your daughter was a part of the art show. She is quite lovely sitting there as if in deep thought holding some sort of object (the audio) but that pic needs to be framed for posterity. She will love it in 20 years or so.

    Mark, I used to be a coffee-holic. I drank at least 6-8 cups a day. Now I can only drink weak de-caf due to afib (rapid and irregular heart rate). I take meds to help control the afib and I should have had the balls for the ablation but I was chicken. Yes, I do love coffee but oh well….

    • We are VERY lucky but I don’t think my daughters realize it yet. Especially the 9-year old. But how could they? They don’t have the right perspective yet. I can only hope that later on, in retrospect, they realize what they were standing in front of.

      I lucked out with the photo. I was about to enter the gallery and saw her sitting there. I was lucky no one else was in the gallery. That’s the benefit of getting there when the doors open. Later that afternoon, people were all over the place. Walking in front of you, talking, etc. It wouldn’t have been as breathless an experience.

      Everything can be abused. Coffee. Big Macs. Cosmetics. Everything. The secret is moderation. That’s the tough part. I’m able to manage with two cups. One in the morning. A second around 2:00. The sound of one hand clapping.

  8. I don’t get the feeling that the pieces of the Water Lilies are incomplete without each other – while each of them is, obviously, a part of the whole, each part still looks like a complete picture, composition-wise, especially the left and the center ones. Also, I wouldn’t be too surprised if these three pictures weren’t the whole thing, and there is another row of three more pictures that’s supposed to be on top of those three.

    • There are gatherings of lily pads along the edges of the panels that are chopped in half when the painting is separated. I’m sure I’ll see that section in the Cleveland collection again one day, but I’ll probably not look at it the same again.

      You are correct that these, too, are part of a greater whole. But the others didn’t go on top. Monet envisioned a circular room where you were surrounded by one big painting. The other panels were linked to the side, not on top.

  9. I absolutely love that picture of your daughter. And to think she’s listening to the audio. Wow. Yes, that’s a big win. The Water Lilies are beautiful. How can they split them apart? What would Monet say? He’d be none too pleased with that! That Women with the Veil is quite haunting. Oh, your girls will be so knowledgeable about art. They’ll be experts! I bet they even in major in Art History. That’s a very good thing about coffee since I drink it everyday.

    • I thought my daughter was texting or talking to one of her friends. I was really going to lay into her. But I saw what she was doing and felt kind of ashamed of myself for suspecting the worst.

      I don’t know if the girls will grow up to be very knowledgeable about art or so fed up with it that they never step into a museum again. Too much of anything will spoil it. All I can do is expose them to art and hope for the best result.

  10. I agree with X, there could be 3 more panels that fit on top of these 3. But the Bronze lady is fascinating to me. It’s like art inside art. How do they make a bronze statue like that?

    • As I mentioned to Mr. X (I love typing ‘Mr. X’) there are other panels but they don’t go on top. They continue onto the side. Monet wanted the viewer encircled. He envisioned a total emergence in the work, surrounding the viewer on all sides. Never happened, unfortunately.

  11. Youse have got to give me a tour of the galleries when I get to your side of the pond.

    Coffee.. The one thing I have to have every day. And beer, the two things I have to have every day…and whiskey….

  12. Stunning photo of the Monet painting with your daughter so perfectly posed in front. The light is beautiful. Thanks for the posts. Always look forward to reading them.

  13. I’ve quit coffee before, for weeks on time, when I was working at the Starbucks HQ, and at times it was like one of those anxiety dreams walking in in the morning, where you look down and realise you’re naked. Not a good naked either.

  14. I saw a bunch of Monet while in Paris this winter, and even though I’ve seen prints of those lilies all my life, there is something stunning about seeing them in person, so I know how you feel.

    • That’s an excellent point. You see so many prints and posters of these paintings that when you’re finally standing in front of the real thing, it’s like seeing a celebrity. The reproductions never capture the real colors or textures. Those Impressionists calendars look flat and crappy.

      Saw “Specter” over the holiday and thought it was terrific, from beginning to end. Why the lukewarm response? Maybe my standards are too low.

      Couldn’t help noticing your Bill Murray avatar. Take a look at this great article from today’s New York Times about how Murray has become a near-deity without ever lifting a finger to encourage it. Thanks for the comment.

    • Yet another blast from the past. Second time in the same post. How’ve you been? Are you ready for the holidays? Because the holidays are ready for you.

      I don’t know if you care about the things but in addition to the R+R Hall of Fame and the museum, Cleveland also has a world-renowned orchestra. What the DON’T have is a decent baseball or football team.

      • The sports teams I could care less about! lol I want the culture. 🙂

        I really don’t care for the holidays, but am trying really hard to get in the spirit, and have even been attempting to put my Xmas tree up! Looking forward to my son coming home in 19 days. 🙂

        And no one’s getting a gift this year!! hahaha

  15. I’m a horrible parent, i let the boyos have a little mini-cup of coffee in the morning sometimes, like you said above, the Incas drank it… i miss that art museum, some fine days of the younger self was spent wandering that art museum stoned out of my mind, i miss the Coventry of my mind, Mac’s Paperbacks and Record Revolution?, the East Side coffee shops so foreign to us Wonder Bread eatin’ Parma kids, i remember tripping my face off in Mayfield Cemetery, a bunch of us hopped a fence on a side street as some little old lady spoke Italian at us and mixed a bowl of dough in her apron, i shit you not the memory is so vivid, wandering past the graves of Rockefeller and Garfield and the fucking lake, i was stunned by the lake, felt like i was somewhere in central Europe but i was really just on the other side of town, spent hours that night reading names and seeing the crypts, the spot where they were all in a row, they was great days they was sir…

    • I wouldn’t say you were a horrible parent…actually, you seem like a pretty great dad…but little boys are pretty wound-up naturally so maybe a little mini-cup isn’t such a great idea. Don’t give them one for a few days and see if they get a pounding headache.

      You will be happy to know that Mac’s Paperbacks and Tommy’s are still going strong. I visited both. Revolution Books is still there, too, but not Record Revolution. I remember hearing about Coventry in high school and it seemed like a far off, magical land. Turns out it was! Anyone who went there had to report the wondrous things that went on there.

    • Kono — what’s “the Coventry of your mind”?

      We have a phrase over here — to be “sent to Coventry” is to be ostracised, shunned, not spoken to.

      • Looby- on the East Side of Cleveland there was a hip neighborhood called Coventry, it’s where you went to find cool records and books by Bukowski, Miller, Burroughs etal, it’s where you could score a Smiths t-shirt and hit secondhand clothing stores so that we could dress like extras from Pretty in Pink, like Exile here, i grew up on the West Side of Cleveland, we were looked down upon by the snooty East Siders, they laughed when we finally got a coffee house, the Coventry of my mind is the wine of youth, the place that is there but no longer there…

    • Would I kill myself if I was deprived of coffee? Depends on what kind of day I was having.

      I’ve read articles about people who’ve died while using their mobile phones. Driving into oncoming traffic and back stepping off a cliff. Things of that nature. But that’s not suicide. That’s thinning the herd.

  16. People are sick of Monet and his water lilies? Wow. I never got that memo. I find them gorgeous, and those three panels together are breathtaking.

    I’m actually going to Ohio! Dayton, in February, for a writer’s conference. It was insane getting tickets. They sold out like a rock concert, in under 5 hours.

    • There a school of thought that says anything that’s achieved mass popularity, as the Impressionists have, can’t possibly be any good. It runs particularly deep in artistic circles. It’s absurd, but that attitude is out there. They used to laugh at Norman Rockwell but now he’s collected by millionaires and hung in museums. It’s hard to keep up with what I’m supposed to like and not like.

      What kind of conference would generate that kind of heat? For Dayton? Is this a blog thing or apart from that? Anyone else I know attending?

      • It’s called the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, and it attracts some really well known women writers.

        I don’t know if you personally know anyone else who’s going to this one, but you might know OF them. A couple of my Sisterwives friends – Chrissy and Michelle.

        But can you imagine that people got locked out of it the same day registration opened?

        That same school of thought that equates popularity to lack of depth also exists for literature. I hate generalizations like that!

      • Actually, I’ve heard about that workshop. It’s kind of a big deal. I’m not at all surprised at its popularity. The Sisterwives stick together like a bunch of superheros. You guys are like the Justice League of America or the Avengers.

    • Holy cow! A new commentator! Hi. And I thought it was going to be just another dull Thursday morning. Welcome.

      ACTUALLY, Monet had other water lily tryptics in addition to these. His idea was to mount them in a circular room so the viewer was surrounded, creating a all-encompassing experience. It worked for me. I didn’t need to be surrounded.

  17. I LOVE that your daughter was listening to the audio whilst sitting surrounded by Monet! To this day our krewe remember the MANY museums (and the art) we took them to see when we traveled around. One day, you’ll know this feeling too, sweetpea! It sort of balances out the times I STILL feel as if I fucked up as a parent. *sigh* But that’s another story…. Anyway, Monet is one of my favorites. That bronze really speaks to me! for a variety of reasons. 😉 xoxox

    • I was RELIEVED that my daughter was listening to the audio guide. I read her the riot act about inappropriate cell phone use on a fair regular basis. Good to see that some of it actually stuck. The two of them will either end up loving museums or never want to step in one again. I’d say the odds are 50/50 at this point.

      I’m still mad at myself for cutting the feet off that bronze in the photo. What an amateur!

  18. Some people are sick of Monet? Gads! Kudos to your daughter, and to you for instilling that desire to learn in her. We visited our granddaughter (step to me) on Thursday and were told the nursery she goes to employs an art specialist. This week she’s been learning about Picasso, how cool is that, she’s two and a half?!

    I’ll put Cleveland on my bucket list.

    • Oh, I hear snide comments about how pedestrian the Impressionists are. I don’t listen to them. I get a charge out of seeing their work and that’s enough for me. Glad to hear your granddaughter (step) is being taken care of in such an exemplary manner. And glad to see you again, as well.

    • Can you see how some of the lily pad clusters are just cut in half once these paintings are taken apart? Monet never intended that to happen. I’m sure he’s miserable about it.

      I got lucky with that photo of my daughter. I turned the corner as just the right moment. Isn’t that 90% of good photography? Being at the right place at the right time.

  19. I’ve only ever been to the Cleveland airport and had no idea that they had an art museum, much less a good one. I adore art museums and Monet is one of the few artists my husband and I agree on. When we lived in DC we’d pop into the Smithsonian all the time to wander through the Impressionist rooms. Now that we live in Denver I still can’t get over having to pay to get into the art museum.

    • Cleveland: a city of mystery and many secrets. Art museum admissions in New York City are a bouillabaisse. Admission to the Met is whatever you want to pay them. A dollar. Two. MoMA is $25, which is outrageous. If I want to bring my family, it’s $100. The art is free in Cleveland although there was an admission for this special exhibit. I didn’t mind.

      • I understand the principle behind charging some admission (no such thing as a free lunch and all that), but $25 is over the top. I don’t mind admissions to special exhibits, because I get to decide whether it’s worth it to me. Jackson Pollock exhibit? No thanks. Monet? Please take my money.

Vent Central:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s