Cezanne and below

Rosa 'All Ablaze' blazes cherry red in Burke Brothers' Tuscany exhibit, accenting classic Italian elements with bright flowers. (Ron Tarver / Staff photographer)

This morning was one of those times - and I have many - when I feel so lucky to do what I do for a living. I was over at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to take a look at some of the Cezanne paintings in the "Cezanne and Beyond" exhibit, which runs till May 17. I'm working on a fascinating story about the role Cezanne's gardens in Provence played in his art, and I wanted to see certain paintings before I start writing. The museum staff allowed me to go in before the place officially opened, and for about 45 minutes I was pretty much alone with this fabulous collection of the works of Cezanne and 18 other artists who were profoundly influenced by him. Seven security guards were visible from every vantage point, so I wasn't really alone, but it felt that way. Soon two groups came in for tours but they were quiet. Word to the wise: the museum's new 400-car, set-into-the-hillside, underground parking garage is open for business but isn't yet properly signed. There's no indication that "T" stands for Terrace, which is the level at which you enter the museum. I can imagine elevators full of people going up and down trying to figure it out. (This is a view of the unfinished "roof" of the garage, which will be landscaped this spring.) Parking is $10 for four hours but if you're a member of the museum, it's only $8. Yet another reason (besides free admission and tickets to special exhibits, which in this case are $22) to join. If you don't get your ticket validated, you get zinged for $26 and if you stay longer than four hours, you pay $2/hour from then on. Next time, I may look elsewhere for a spot.