Shortly after moving to Belgium in 2011, I was called back to the USA on business which took me for the first time to the city of St. Louis. Arriving on Saturday evening left me an entire Sunday to have a look around. What transpired was probably the single best day I have ever had as a solo traveler in any American city. I couldn’t help but see the irony in experiencing something new and amazing in my home country as a result of my moving out of it.
But I was quickly reminded of my europhilia in a chance encounter with my favorite Antwerp-born and Haarlem-based painter, Frans Hals, and a struggling artist known only to a few, Vincent Van Gogh (that’s GOCKH people….).
The overall itinerary which covered this amazing day:
- Gateway Arch
- Forest Park
- St. Louis Museum of Art
- St. Louis Blues Ice Hockey Game
St. Louis Museum of Art
Anytime I come across a Frans Hals in an art museum, I suddenly have this now we are talking euphoria. No, this is not The Merry Drinker, but no matter, it is an exquisite portrait. While Merry Drinkers are more memorable, portraits paid the bills. It would be easy to skim past a portrait of some unflattering, anonymous woman, but this painting does emote a story if you give it a chance. Perhaps it says something about the vanity of wealth. No one knows who the woman is but the portrait of her husband which was done at the same time is hanging in an art museum in Kansas City. Imagine that for a minute. A moderately wealthy couple living in the mid-17th century has their portraits done by the great Frans Hals. They probably hang in their manor for years. The couple eventually dies. Their descendants need money, sell off the paintings without caring to note their identities to the buyers. Years and years of changing providence and the two portraits, which probably meant a great deal to that couple, are now separated as well as anonymous. What then did it all mean? I would find it romantic if the two were re-united, wouldn’t you?
St. Louis Blues
The picture at the hockey game reminds me of all of the empty sports arenas around the world during these COVID-19 times. It reminds me of the innocent and pleasurable things that we do as humans in crowds where germs as well as emotions are flowing freely with every scream, high five, and bear hug. We cannot be afraid to go back to that life. We must tell ourselves that it is ok to have human contact once again when this is all over. That day in St. Louis now stands for so much more than I originally intended when I sat down to write this. It makes me appreciate even more the joys of life and human interaction. There is only one small thing that irritates me. This was before life was brewtiful, so I didn’t get one damn beer picture.