We often say “good things come in small packages.” This is certainly true of The National Gallery of Art’s collection of Small French Paintings in Washington. The nucleus of this charming group of impressionist and postimpressionist paintings was the collection of Ailsa Mellon Bruce, given to the museum in 1969. Since then, other members of the Mellon family, as well as other benefactors, have added to the breadth and depth of the collection of small format paintings. One that I particularly liked was this beach scene by Eugène Boudin. It reminded me of a visit to the Boudin museum in Honfleur a couple of years ago. Boudin and friends such as Claude Monet dragged their easels into the plein-air around Honfleur and impressionism was born.
Today’s expression, dans les petits pots, les meilleurs onguents (dahn lay puhtee poe, lay mayurz ohn-goo-ahn) literally means “in little pots, the best medicine.” I like this even better than the English expression. The Small French Paintings are good medicine for the eye, mind, and the heart.