Opening day of the Claude Monet show at the Baltimore Museum of Art had viewers emotionally melting over paintings that are themselves about melting colors and impressionistic moods.
"I have been looking forward to this show for more than a year and was mesmerized by it," said Deborah Goldsborough, a secretary living in Waverly, after walking through the exhibit Sunday afternoon. "I like seeing this much variety in Monet's work and how it changed over time.
"Impressionism is painting that comes from the heart and tries to evoke an emotion," she added. "Whatever else it might be in a historical way, it touches people."
What these viewers specifically are being touched by are 32 Monet paintings from the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which have been temporarily swapped for 50 works from the Baltimore Museum of Art's Cone Collection.
Ms. Goldsborough was hardly alone in her feelings about the Monet exhibit. Using a system of timed entry tickets priced at $6.50 for adults, the BMA permits 300 visitors an hour to enter the show. Applying the higher math to the higher aesthetics, this translated to 2,400 people who saw the exhibit on its sold-out first day. And the opening day turn-out followed a sold-out black tie gala Saturday night, where the guests ranged from Gov. William Donald Schaefer to film director John Waters.
There are a total of 240,000 tickets available for the show running through Jan. 19, of which more than 45,000 already had been claimed by opening day.
Despite the Monet mania, crowds remained civilized and on their best Sunday behavior. Lines to get into the show were orderly and nobody could be heard complaining. Inside the galleries, viewers were often standing three and four deep in front of certain canvases, seduced by both the paintings and the Meryl Streep-narrated Acoustiguide tour. But people with enough patience eventually could get fairly close to every evocative brush stroke.
It was no surprise that many visitors came from outside the state, often drawn by a combination of Baltimore relatives and regional advertising done by the BMA.
Scanning a wall of Monet posters in a gift shop whose cash register issued a steady electronic chirp, Joanne Lee of Springfield, Va., said, "Monet's colors are very hard to reproduce, so it's good to see the original paintings."
"I love Impressionism so much I had to see these paintings," said Charlotte Digia, who lives in Wilmington, Del. "He has so many pictures I love -- a cottage by the sea, the river scenes and one of a bridge -- that it's a pleasure to see them together. I don't really know much about art. I just know what I like, and I like this."
For information about the exhibit call 396-7100.