What if Leo Tolstoy met Julia Child?

Ah, that would be interesting! Both were a key part of a lovely autumn day I spent with my fellow museum rat (more fondly known as my wonderful Dad).

We met at The Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, which sparked a desire to re-read Mr. Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Then we went to lunch at Wise Acre, where my dad sneakily bought me a copy of Julia’s iconic book. I’m working on cooking my way through it now, and adding some ranting and over-the-top commentary while I’m in the kitchen! Thanks, Dad, for the inspiration!

Meanwhile, Leo and Julia would be impressed with our day of Russian Art and From-Scratch Cuisine!

“Inappropriate for Minnesota”

The Museum is in a former Congregational Church, built in the Spanish Colonial style (think: The Alamo). My favorite quote from an early parishioner:

“That Spanish Mission style was not a Congregational style and it really wasn’t a style appropriate for Minnesota, but it was a style that the Meckels were fond of and the congregation was extremely fond of the Meckels.” Ha!

On a bright sunny, crisp morning, I dawdled outside waiting for my Dad, eager to see his beautiful smile and start our adventure.

Beautiful outdoor decor

There he was! Just a few minutes with him would have made my week perfect. And I got the whole morning and lunch with him!

Bring on the oils

The Museum is very manageable in size, which was refreshing from recent museums where you just can’t see it all in a few hours. We started with the featured exhibit, Nicolai Fechin’s paintings. He had a WIDE range of work, from Russian style with incredible color and brushwork to impressionistic views of the US Southwest (appropriate in this spanish architecture museum, eh?!).

My Dad and I have a shared appreciation for oil paintings. I love how the canvas absorbs some of the paints, the brushes control the details  and I am especially drawn to thick, layered globs (sorry) of rich, deep oil paint on a canvas.

Many of the pieces are portraits. Yet his style is wide ranging — you can see how his style develops.

Some of our favorites:

Aren’t his paintings delightful?!

The second floor of the Museum features various Russian artists’ creations, including some from their growing permanent collection. It was amazing to think many of these artists literally worked while risking their lives. Not so long ago, it was frowned upon for artists in Russia to paint anything except portraits of military leaders. Thankfully, the artists survived, and their amazing creations live on for all of us to enjoy.

A lovely little corner of the second floor had a spotlight exhibit of Religion in Russian Art. There were only a few paintings, but I’m sad I didn’t sneak a photo of the painting of Mary there. As my Dad eloquently explained, we’d never seen her depicted that way. Not all serene and lovely and calm, holding a baby. This portrait shows her strong and determined, in the desert, looking very self-sufficient, smart, talented, confident, strong and maybe even a little feisty.

Wonderful image. And exactly why I so adore my Dad: He’s self-sufficient, smart, talented, confident and strong with exactly the right amount of spice.

Spaseebo balshoye (Russian for “Thank you very much”), Dad! Love you.

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