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Chrysler revs hearts of art lovers, casual to hard core, in Norfolk
Join Paul Sullivan on his 'Armchair Adventures'

 A schooner at Norfolk's Waterside recalls the city's long history as a seaport.
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Date published: 4/24/2011

ISN'T IT STRANGE that you can visit a grand place, come away uninterested, yet return years later and scarcely tear yourself away?

A couple of weekends ago I made a return visit to Norfolk's Chrysler Museum of Art on a quickie trip to that city.

Where the Chrysler hadn't fazed me some three decades ago, it had the opposite effect this time, leaving me and a friend frustrated when we had to depart for another obligation in the city.

For those who cannot get enough of fine art, the Chrysler is, simply put, a must-see. The 60 galleries in its evocative and spacious Italianate buildings display artworks to rival the very best.

I knew that founder Walter P. Chrysler Jr. had been an ardent lifelong collector, but until I laid eyes on the rooms (that's plural) of magnificent works by the most celebrated French and American Impressionists, I had seriously underrated his efforts.

Chrysler, by the way, was not owner/founder of the automaker of the same name, but was his son.

My friend CG had been drawn to the special showing of the museum's Tiffany glass. This has never been something I found especially exciting, but the docents on hand to explain how these beautiful glass works were created placed them in a historical context I found most interesting. I could not conceive that kind of hand-created art being fashioned in New York City today.

There was something to draw us in everywhere we turned. Outside the cafe (fine food, but it closes at 3 p.m.!) there were photographs of the Civil War that were among the best I've seen. I had difficulty tearing myself away from the print of a simple wooden Fredericksburg home taken by Timothy O'Sullivan.

All too early we had to leave the Chrysler, vowing not to wait so long for a next time. This is not a place to go with a couple of spare hours on the schedule. Plan on the best part of a day there.

A tip for those who visit: Don't overlook the obvious while appreciating the artworks. The architecture housing them, with its courtyards, graceful arches and sculptures, is simply and quietly beautiful.

From the Chrysler, we drove a few blocks south to the Waterside area, finding a little time in a too-tight schedule to enjoy a walk along the piers and a stop at Prince Books, a great small, independent bookstore at 109 E. Main St., just a block north of Waterside.

All bookstores are having a tough time now, but especially the independents. I must put in a good word for these struggling businesses. We are fortunate to have a number of indie book agents in our town.

Paul Sullivan of Spotsylvania County, a former reporter with The Free Lance-Star, is a freelance writer. Email him at PBSullivan2@cs.com.