Vermeer at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles

Vermeer's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.
Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter at the Getty.

The Getty was on my list of museums to visit before I move. I’ve been before with my dad, but I wanted to go again, both for the artwork and the view. So when I saw that a Vermeer was on loan from Amsterdam until March 31, I knew I wanted to get there in time to see it. So two days before its last day, my friend and former co-worker Mike and I made the trek north of I-10 to the Getty. The artwork was great, although the views were less than stellar because it was a hazy day (In LA? Imagine that!).

The museum was busy for a Friday but it was Spring Break. We started in the East Pavilion and saw beautiful European paintings, including work by Rembrandt and Rubens. When we got to the room with Vermeer’s “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” there were about eight people standing around it so I worked my way around the room looking at the other artwork first. When I got back to the Vermeer there were only two other people standing there so I was able to get close and take a picture. The realistic details and use of light made it stunning to look at it in person.

Next we went to the West Pavilion where they had a really interesting exhibit called “Japan’s Modern Divide” featuring two Japanese photographers, Hiroshi Hamaya and Kansuke Yamamoto. I really liked Hamaya’s images of life in rural, hardscrabble Japan: women covered in mud planting rice, people wearing rainjackets made of straw that looked like teepees, determined workers in the snow bundled up except for their faces, and kids singing in a snow cave as part of a New Year’s tradition. I especially liked these photos because I’ve been to Japan and could connect with what I saw. But I learned things too. I didn’t know that the back coast along the Sea of Japan was one of the coldest inhabited place in the world in the wintertime.

Mike and I agreed that we were less impressed with Yamamoto’s avant-garde photographs. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated enough to get them, but the journalist in me liked the realism of Hamaya’s photographs better.

We made a trip through the room with the Impressionists but it was quick since I remembered those pieces from my list trip to the Getty and from museums in Europe (and college posters!).

After an hour and a half of hard museum floors, Mike and I were complaining that our feet and backs hurt (I know, we sound old!) so we skipped the rest of the museum and walked through the garden, taking pictures of the hazy view and close-ups of the flowers. I could have napped on the lawn in the warm sun like others were doing, but instead we headed home to beat rush-hour traffic.

The Getty is so big it’s a museum you can go back to again and again. I just wish it had been a clearer day so I could have gotten better photos of the city and beyond. If it rains before I leave, I might just have to go back!

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Next up, hiking to the Hollywood sign!


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