Friday, January 13, 2012


Ralph Curtis, Drifting with the Tide, 1884, oil on canvas, private collection.
                                             near the Massachusetts Bay

  Imagine gently drifting down the Grand Canal in Venice, admiring the Italian scenery while a young gondolier abandons his usual stance and lays back effortlessly steering to an unknown destination. You gently hold onto a rope as the vessel rocks side to side in a gentle breeze. He whispers in your ear stories of his family working in the shipyards building thousands of these ancient flat bottomed vessels, icons of Venetian history. His story is embellished with exquisite details as is customary of the gondolas decor. The hull is black by law, but the interior is adorned with hand-woven carpets, gold guilded furnishings, cushioned seats and a linen-draped roof cutting the water's reflective glare.

Ralph Curtis painting

Palazzo Barbaro once home to Ralph Curtis an American painter.
  Although born in Boston, Ralph Curtis, an American painter lived in Venice on the Grand Canal in a palace known as Palazzo Barbaro in the San Marco district. It was frequented by famous artists, musicians, writers and socialites of the time including Monet, Whistler, Henry James, his second cousin John Singer Sargent and Isabella Stewart Gardner, founder of Boston's 15th century Venetian style museum that houses over 2,500 paintings, sculptures, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, rare books and decorative arts.  

  The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is certainly on my bucket list to visit, but fortunately it has one of the best museum websites I've seen.  A true treasure! You can explore the galleries, see an amazing collection and view past exhibitions such as the 2004 Gondola Days, Isabella Stewart Gardner~The Pallazzo Barbaro Circle. Want to be inspired? Start 2012 by visiting to view Curtis's wonderful oil on canvas along with other breathtaking works of art.  

  I'm inspired by Curtis's color palette of blues and golds contrasted by his use of bold black. It immediately drew me in. I especially love staring at the dark blue linen drapes kissed by the sun. His brilliant choice of perception makes me feel like I'm sitting at the other end of the gondola listening, gazing and marveling at the beautiful city. Lovely.

  I first learned about the museum by watching a documentary called, Stolen, The Film. Not to spoil this true story, but in 1990 the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was part of a heist and stolen were amazing works of art including Vermeer's, The Concert, known today as the world's most valuable missing painting. I highly recommend you watch it if you love a good mystery.  

Massachusetts Bay

Werner Kunz, Boston Harbor
  Boston, near the Massachusetts Bay, is one of the largest bays on the Atlantic Ocean. Since 1990, it has been part of the U.S. National Estuary Program. The Massachusetts Bays Program is working to improve its health and empower the communities to help with restoration efforts. Baylife includes horseshoe crabs, herons and striped bass.

  What's a bay?  Bays are bodies of water mostly surrounded by land on three sides. Many are calm and provide vessels safe anchorage. Diverse animals call it home, while others simply visit during grand migrations. The world is full of beautiful bays with the largest, Bay of Bengal (India) and the longest, Hudson Bay (Canada). There are even fictional bays like J.R.R. Tolkein's Bay of Belfalas in the Great Sea.

  A large bay may be called different names such as gulf, sea, sound, cove, strait, mouth, harbor, bayou, loch, inlet or estuary. Estuaries are where the river meets the sea. They are often influenced by tides and are protected from the full force of ocean waves and foul weather.

  Want to protect bays? Bays have seen a vast loss of habitat resulting in fewer fish and wildlife. One of the biggest challenges is runoff from the watershed. To support restoration and conservation efforts, consider not using fertilizer, pick up pet waste, use mass transportation, recycle, fix vehicle leaks and wash your car in the grass or where they recycle water. Most of all get inspired, learn about your local bodies of water, join and support local efforts and include stewardship actions in you daily lifestyle.

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