This weekend the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hosted its second book group for members. I mentioned this project a couple of months ago and wanted to let everyone know how it turned out.
On Friday night, registered readers gathered at the Visitor’s desk and were brought to one of the museum’s special events rooms. Guests mingled and chatted while nibbling on the platter of international cheeses (mostly French) and drinking wine. Museum staff had thoughtfully piped in French music of the late 19th century to add ambiance.
After a quick greeting from the project leaders, the guests were taken on a brief tour of the Museum’s Impressionist Galleries. The docent discussed the rise of the Impressionist movement and had the participants carefully examine certain paintings for differences in the work of the artists and examples of Impressionist brush strokes. She also pointed out why this movement caused such a stir among the French art community.
The tour concluded, guests were led back to the main room and a lively discussion of Luncheon of the Boating Party ensued. Participants were very eager to discuss the roles of women, in both the painting, the novel, and French society, the meaning of la vie moderne and what it meant to the models and Renoir, and how the author also “captured a moment” by only writing about an eight week period in Renoir’s life and the brief, intense relationships formed between his models.
The tour and presentation about the place held by Impressionism in art history lent an added depth to the discussion of Susan Vreeland‘s well received historical novel. Our musuem’s gift shop purchased trade paperback copies and sold them with a discount to Museum members. I created a powerpoint presentation with other Renoir paintings featuring model/characters from the book and also put the discussion questions on the slides for all the attendees to read, thus cutting down on the amount of paperwork I felt I had to bring along.
Consider moving the book group out of the library or coffee shop and taking it to a related location that may stimulate more discussion. It’s a partnership worth pursuing at any size library. Cost is minimal and entertainment value is high.