New Year’s Eve with Friends





 My Friends, and detail, oil on canvas, 1887.  Viggo Johansen, 1851-1935, Danish. Philadelphia Art Museum




 Playing softly, music familiar for a lifetime:




Chopin Nocturne in D Flat, Op 27/2.  Artur Rubinstein, 1887-1982, American born Lodz, at the time Russia





Lamps have been lit:






Lamps made by Tiffany Studios, 1902-1932, NY.  Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1848-1933, American. The Neustadt Collection, NY 




Off the table:  politics and religion including New Age woo-woo, new and old Atheism, Pan-syncretic stuff and ecological catastrophism…..







Dream and Lie of Franco, 1937, etching and sugar-lift aquatint. 

Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973, Spanish. Philadelphia Art Museum

The museum notes that these multiple small panels show the destruction of Spanish culture by Francisco Franco whose political and military activities incited the Spanish civil war of 1936-39.  These were Picasso’s first overtly political works.






Off the table:  connubial histrionics





Political Drama, 1914, oil and collage on cardboard.

  Robert Delaunay, 1885-1941, French.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC






Off the table: throwing down gauntlets, no matter how scintillating 






Pair of Gauntlets of Maximilian I, 1459-1519, Holy Roman Emperor, Augsburg, c. 1490, attributed to Lorenz Helmschmidt, died 1516.

Loaned by the Patrimonio Nacional, Madrid to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2019/2020 


I only have to recall this workmanship for all sadness to lift away from me!




Off the table:  #Metoo behaviours defined as broadly as anyone in the room defines it…..






The Garter, c. 1724, oil on canvas. Jean-Francois Troy, 1679-1752.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. 

The museum, reminding viewers that this painting is in the French tradition, points out the ambiguity of the woman’s gesture, pushing away the man’s offer of help to fix her garter.

The ambiguity lies in the fact that the woman may be indulging in a ruse by, nevertheless, exposing her leg.




 Off the table: cell phones




A cell phone of ebony, hinged with copper; made as a gift for me by Carl Weissinger, woodwright and pastellist.

Its buttons are of beech.  One – second down on the right  allows me to order Christmas crackers.  Or detonate a Molotov cocktail depending on the need.

The one below that allows me to hurl lightning.  So useful on a city street at night.

The phone is silky soft to the touch and unlike our monster ‘intelligent’ phones, this one nestles easily in the palm of the hand. 

Its biggest advantage: it does not ring, buzz, hum, vibrate, burp, chirp, tingle, sing or summon you to anything.



An exception about electronics at the table has been made for the child.  She is deep in a game





Detail of My Friends, oil on canvas, 1887.  Viggo Johansen, 1851-1935, Danish. Philadelphia Art Museum





Her baby brother has been put to bed for the night with his Elmo friend and his electronic feeder.






Sam and Richard, 1940, oil pastel on coloured paper.  Alice Neel, 1900-1984, American.  MOMA, NY





The feeder recognizes his particular ‘feed-me’ cry and, warming up the bottle to the proper temperature, shaking it a little, it activates its arm to maneuver the bottle to the baby’s mouth





Raising Robotic Natives, 2016,  mixed media.

Stephan Bognar, German born 1993; Philipp Schmitt, German born 1993, Jonas Voigt, German born 1992.   On exhibit at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2019/2020







On the table:  conviviality, friendship, love, food, drink and waiting for the midnight hour.




At the center of the table:  the chrysanthemums of Autumn which were transplanted indoors to survive until this New Year




1862 Still LIfe with Chrysanthemums oil on canvas 46 x 55.6 cm Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA


Still life with Chrysanthemums, 1862, oil on canvas.  

Henri Fantin-Latour , 1836 – 1904, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum





The women can wear whatever they want.


They have opted for the old artisanal excellence:

the evening glitters and embroideries and vintage shades of cream, alabaster, ivory, puce, stone, oyster; and strangled pinks.





Evening dress, 1925-28, pink, ivory and black silk chiffon embroidered with silver sequins, silver metal beads, clear crystals and bugle beads, silver lame and silver silk metal lace. 

Possibly French.  Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY






Dress, c. 1925, cream cotton tulle and cream cotton filet lace embroidered with floral motifs in cream cotton thread.  Possibly Boué Soeurs, active 1899-1957, French.  Promised gift to the Metropolitan Museum, NY





Portrait of Gertie Schiele, c. 1909, oil, silver, gold-bronze paint, and pencil on canvas.  Egon Schiele, 1890-1918.  MOMA, NY






Ivory Gypsy, 1974, cotton, crocheted lace, ball fringe, handblock printed, partially bleached and overdyed, tie-dyed, appliqued, hand- and machine-sewn.  Ben Compton, 1938-1986, American.  Philadelphia Art Museum





The two men deep in discussion in the shadows are asked to stop talking business and join the rest of the company





Detail of My Friends, oil on canvas, 1887.  Viggo Johansen, 1851-1935, Danish. Philadelphia Art Museum






And so, on to the preparations for the feast 


The house has been aired and cleaned to the exhaustion of some……





Young Woman with a Pitcher, c. 1662, oil on canvas. 

Johannes Vermeer, 1632-1675, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY






A Maid Asleep, 1656-57, oil on canvas.

  Johannes Vermeer, 1632-1675, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY





Food preparation has been underway for days






Fish Market, 1568, oil on Baltic oak. Joachim Beuckelaer, 1535-1575, Netherlandish, Antwerp.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY






Tom, the Butcher, 1955, oil on canvas.  Dolya Goutman, 1915-2001, American.  Woodmere Museum of Art, Philadelphia





Still Life from Audubon to Warhol, PMA, November 2015-10

Peeling Onions, 1852, oil on canvas.  Lily Martin Spencer, 1822-1902, American born England.  Exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2015





The Yield of the Waters, 1878, altered 1889, oil on canvas.  William Merritt Chase, 1849-1916, American.  Detroit Institute of Arts on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2015






The Silver Tureen, 1728/29, oil on canvas. 

Jean Simeon Chardin, 1699-1779, French.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY





The feast covers the wharf and starts with soup:





Earthenware soup tureen, American, 1983.  Winterthur, Delaware






Still Life with Peacock Pie, and detail, oil on panel, 1627.  Peter Claesz, 1596/7 – 1660, Dutch.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC






Dishes with Oysters, Fruit and Wine, and detail, oil on panel, c. 1620/1625.  Osias Beert The Elder, active 1596-1623, Flemish.  National Gallery of Art, Washington DC





Detail of My Friends, oil on canvas, 1887.  Viggo Johansen, 1851-1935, Danish. Philadelphia Art Museum






Basket of Fish, c. 1910, Georges Braque, 1882-1963, French.  Philadelphia Art Museum





Details of Still Life with Oysters, White Wine and Lemon, 1974, colour lithograph.  Jack Beal, 1931-2013. Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, Delaware








Still life with lobster and fruit, early 1650s, oil on wood. 

Abraham van Beyeren, 1620/21-1690, Dutch.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY





On the table:  a little fruit…………





Still Life with Oranges and Goblet of Wine, oil on artist’s board, 1880-1890’s. John Frederick Peto, 1854-1907, American.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC


Still Life from Audubon to Warhol, PMA, November 2015-18

Fruit and Plants with a Crystal Bowl, detail, c. 1850, oil on canvas. Ferdinand Richardt, 1819-1895, Danish-American.  Exhibited in 2015 at the Philadelphia Art Museum






Tumbling Clementines, 2004, watercolour. 

Eileen Goodman, born 1937, American.  On display in 2015 at  Woodmere Museum of the Art, Philadelphia





A Dessert, oil on wood, 1814.  Raphaelle Peale, 1874-1825, American.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC




Pies, a little cheese






Banquet Piece with Mince Pie, oil on canvas, 1635.  Willem Claesz Heda, 1594-1680, Dutch.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC






Still Life:  Cognac and Biscuits, 1850, oil on canvas.  John Francis, 1808-1886, American.  Collection of John and Dolores Beck and on loan to an exhibition at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2015




Coffee.  From Ethiopia, of course…..





Object, 1936. fur-covered cup, saucer and spoon.  Meret Oppenheim, 1913-1985, Swiss.  MOMA, NY





Brandies and Vodkas 





Vodka of Scented Geranium

Orange brandy and Brandy of scented geranium



October sunlight captured in a bottle of vodka of American black walnut: a delicious fragrance neither sweet nor savoury and very heady




Game-playing accompanies the liqueurs





Untitled (Playing Chess),  oil on canvas. 

Morris Blackburn, 1902-1979.  Promised gift of the Pennsylvania Academy of Art to the Woodmere Museum, Philadelphia.





Ace of Clubs and Four of Diamonds, oil on board, 1912.  Juan Gris, 1997-1927, Spanish.  Philadelphia Museum of Art





Politics having been barred, these words which represent the fervent wish of millions of us, were not not permitted on the board



A smoke by the fire for some





Paul César Helleu (1859-1927, French), c 1882-85, watercolour over graphite; a very close friend of John Singer Sargent whose work this is.  Sargent, 1856-1925, American.  The Morgan Library, NY





And when the friends hear fireworks and the bells begin to toll, they raise a toast to the new year because midnight has arrived.  






American New Year Card, c. 1905






Detail of My Friends, oil on canvas, 1887.  Viggo Johansen, 1851-1935, Danish. Philadelphia Art Museum





The French windows are thrown open towards the fireworks. 


The world enters the room.  





Fireworks, Night at Longchamp, detail, ferrotyped silver gelatin print, 1936. 

Brassai, French, born Romania, 1899-1984.  On exhibit at The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia in 2016




People, dressed up for a party and waving, are running down to the river’s edge where magnificent fireworks are the city’s gift at New Year









Tiled murals, 42nd Street Metro, NY. I don’t know the artist






Untitled (Study with Glasses and Circles), c. 1932-34, gelatin silver print.  Emilio Amero, 1901-1976, Mexican.  Exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in winter 2016




A new year come again.







As I was looking at the painting, My Friends, a young woman addressed me and asked what I was seeing.  We discussed the painting. 

She drew from her bag a pill box, opened it and spilled some of the contents carefully into the palm of her hand.


She picked out one dried four-leaf clover and gave it to me.





A practice she said at the New Year of her grandfather, an immigrant from Ireland to the eastern US, so many decades ago now. 


She wished me good fortune for 2020.  And I her. 


As I you.





Mailed in New York State in December 1905





















8 thoughts on “New Year’s Eve with Friends

    1. Thanks, Rob. Good wishes to you and your family and best wishes for your continuing recuperation! Sarah

  1. Viggo Johansen is an artist I like very much, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this painting before. “Peeling Onions” is pure delight. And that phone!!! 😀

    Happy New Year!

    1. We just don’t see much of the work of the Scandinavians. Too bad!

      Happy to you, too! Sarah

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