The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has a book. That is, Calvin Tomkins researched and wrote Merchants and Masterpieces to recount the history of wealth, taste, and civic-mindedness that gave the world the Met.
The St. Louis Museum of Art deserves to have such a book. Maybe, if I live long enough, I’ll write it myself. The museum houses a collection worthy of the fourth-largest city in America (which St. Louis was, in 1900). Mr. Halsey Ives, who served the Union as a draftsman in the Civil War, founded the museum. Anders Zorn painted this captivating portrait of him:
The Met in New York has a Vlaminck river scene, which I have much admired. So does the St. Louis Museum of Art. Le Havre: Le Grand Quais.
Of course the St. Louis Museum of Art has a painting by the greatest painter ever. A particularly interesting one. Here El Greco depicts St. Paul holding not just his sword, but also his letter to Titus.
Turns out 19th-century Missouri had its own “painter.” George Caleb Bingham. Here’s one of the paintings from the Bingham gallery, Raftsmen Playing Cards:
…Of course I couldn’t head back east across the Mississippi without stopping at St. Louis Cathedral. Pictures cannot do it justice. It is everything that the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington should be, but isn’t. (That is, a completely mosaiced neo-Byzantine jewel box.)
I leave you with the cathedral’s magnificent statue of the patron. (St. Louis campaigned in the Holy Land and brought the Lord’s crown of thorns back to Paris.) St. Louis, pray for us. See you back in Roanoke, Va., dear reader.