On to Richmond

Richmond Travel Blog

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Science Museum of Virginia (former Broad Street Station)

I took Thursday and Friday off so we could enjoy a trip to Richmond, the capital of Virginia, outside of the weekend. The main objective was to see the new art exhibit Tiffany: Color and Light at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Our trip would be south, against rush hour traffic heading north to Washington. Nevertheless, we left Springfield around 9:45 a.m., after morning rush hour,  and drove US Highway 1 down to Quantico. We picked up Interstate I-95 at Quantico and continued our journey, stopping at the Virginia Information Center at Fredericksburg for Richmond attraction brochures.

Houses along Boulevard
Excellent time was made and we were exiting I-95 to Boulevard in Richmond at 11:30 a.m. It was a hot day in Richmond, with a record-setting temperature of 101F (38C).

Time for lunch before exploring the museum in the afternoon. Susan and spotted Buz and Ned's barbecue restaurant on Boulevard. It's said to be Richmond's best barbecue, and they back up the claim with the fact they won over chef Bobby Flay in a cook-off. It was delicious!

After lunch it was museum time. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) is a few more blocks down Boulevard. (The avenue is named simply Boulevard.) It's at the edge of The Fan district of Richmond. The Fan is a neighborhood that developed after the Civil War as Richmond rebuilt.

Houses in The Fan
It's full of Victorian houses and has seen much restoration and gentrification in recent years. The area was open and occupied by country houses before the Civil War. The Robinson House, now used by  the museum, is a surviving example.

The VMFA just reopened in May with the dedication of a large new wing. The major summer show to celebrate the new wing is the Tiffany exhibit. (The exhibit will also be displayed in Paris and Montreal.) Richmond is logical place for it, as the VMFA has extensive Tiffany and Art Nouveau holdings of its own and is strong on American decorative arts. (Too, as we were to later to discover, Richmond was a large market for Tiffany products during the Gilded Age.) Tiffany: Color and Light surveys the career of designer and artist Louis Comfort Tiffany and the making of his firm's famous colored glass windows, lamps, and vases.

Street in The Fan
One discovery was that, contrary to popular belief, Tiffany did not design all of his firm's iconic Art Nouveau objects d'art. Instead, he employed several designers, including two women, always working anonymously.  (The corporate history is complicated.  The Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company that made the glass objects is not the same as Tiffany & Co. jewlers That was his father's firm.) Separate galleries told the story of designing the pieces and then fabricating the glass. I had not realized before how three-dimensional the stained glass windows actually are, nor the degree of surface texture present in the lamps and vases. Photographs don't do these pieces justice! The exhibit allowed one to get right up close to the pieces to examine them, especially the large windows.
Robinson House (ca. 1850)
  The windows up close were amazing, revealing layered glass for a 3-D effect, flowing robes in rippled Drapery Glass rising out of the window, and foliage done with Confetti Glass shards, almost abstract in nature. Flat colored windows they were not. The Tiffany lamps were last, with one example of each of the designs.

Susan and I then spent time seeing other parts of the museum.  VMFA has its own Tiffany collection and we went to see it, now armed with new knowledge and appreciation. I was able to take photos here, but not at the special exhibit. Lamps and vases similar to the ones we had seen were on display and one window. The centerpiece is a large glass and silver punch bowl with three silver ladles, made for exhibit at the 1900 Paris World's Fair. We had time to see other Art Nouveau and Art Deco galleries and the American decorative arts galleries.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
I also stopped in the South Asian gallery of Indian art and the gallery of modern and 21st Century art. Several period galleries are still in the process of being redone and have not yet opened. We enjoyed seeing the museum's Fabergé gallery with its collection of five Russian Imperial Easter Eggs and many other Fabergé pieces made for the Romanovs.

After time in the gift shop, we headed for our hotel to check in. We were staying at the Fairfield Inn in Short Pump, a suburb on Richmond's West End. We'd been in Short Pump some 21 years ago and remembered it as a nearly rural suburb of the city. What a difference two decades makes! Like the The Fan once grew out of countryside over 100 years ago, Short Pump is the new "happening" and growing suburb of Richmond. It's now full of new housing developments, hotels, business parks, and upscale shopping centers.

New wing at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
It's nothing like what we remembered. At 6:00 p.m., Susan and ventured out to Short Pump Town Center, the major open-air mall. A thunderstorm was threatening, but it held off. We enjoyed dinner at Maggiano's. Afterward, we looked around the mall. An open-air music festival was taking place on the green with a band playing classic rock tunes. An interesting feature of this mall were the fibreglass sculptures of famous Viginians. Two we saw were of Powhatan, the Native American chief, and Ella Fitzgerald, the jazz vocalist.

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Science Museum of Virginia (former…
Science Museum of Virginia (forme…
Houses along Boulevard
Houses along Boulevard
Houses in The Fan
Houses in The Fan
Street in The Fan
Street in The Fan
Robinson House (ca. 1850)
Robinson House (ca. 1850)
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
New wing at the Virginia Museum of…
New wing at the Virginia Museum o…
Virginia Musuem of Fine arts
Virginia Musuem of Fine arts
At the Virginia Musuem of Fine Arts
At the Virginia Musuem of Fine Arts
Tiffany: Color and Light exhibit
Tiffany: Color and Light exhibit
Tiffany Magnolia and Apple Blossom…
Tiffany Magnolia and Apple Blosso…
Tiffany window detail
Tiffany window detail
Tiffany lamps
Tiffany lamps
Tiffany Water Lilly glass lamp
Tiffany Water Lilly glass lamp
Tiffany glass and silver punch bowl
Tiffany glass and silver punch bowl
Pennsylvania Dutch checst (18th ce…
Pennsylvania Dutch checst (18th c…
Worsham-Rockefeller period bedroom
Worsham-Rockefeller period bedroom
Fabergé Imperial Pelican Easter E…
Fabergé Imperial Pelican Easter …
Houses along Boulevard in The Fan
Houses along Boulevard in The Fan
Congregation Tikvat Israel
Congregation Tikvat Israel
Short Pump Town Center
Short Pump Town Center
Powhattan Statue at Short Pump Tow…
Powhattan Statue at Short Pump To…
Short Pump fountain
Short Pump fountain
The tall pump at Short Pump
The tall pump at Short Pump
Outdoor music festival
Outdoor music festival
Outdoor music festival
Outdoor music festival
Ella Fitzgerald statue at Short Pu…
Ella Fitzgerald statue at Short P…
Ella Fitzgerald statue at Short Pu…
Ella Fitzgerald statue at Short P…
Powhattan Statue at Short Pump Tow…
Powhattan Statue at Short Pump To…
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photo by: tj1777