This week’s NewsFlashes: ubiquitous bees, unfriendly French, and how art has aged the founding fathers

1) Adieu to the unfriendly Frenchman? The gruff Gallic waiter and the petty Parisian hotelier loom as large in the tourist imagination as the Eiffel Tower. Who cares if they’re as unreal as Tintin? The Paris tourism board, that’s who. It’s distributed tens of thousands of brochures called “Do You Speak Touriste?” to cafes, hotels, and shops in an effort to snub out snobisme and put a premium on politesse, advising that Americans just like eating at 6 p.m. (and can’t be unglued from their phones) and the British like being addressed by their first names. What’s at stake? Billions of tourism dollars. And perhaps one of the primary reasons to travel: to be somewhere different from home. C’est la vie.

To remember French cafes the way they were, check out the photograph above from our collection taken in 1953 by Robert Doisneau, the great romantic chronicler of post-War Paris, who claimed the Paris café life was changing already in the 1960s.

2) Were the founding fathers the millenials of 1776? Slate magazine recently compiled the ages of major revolutionary figures in 1776 and, sure enough, they’re younger than you’d think. Jefferson was just 33. Franklin, the only genuinely wizened one, had wigs older than Hale and Hamilton, both 21. Flag seamstress Betsy Ross, 24, was more like Etsy Ross.

Thomas Sully, portrait of George Washington

Famous portraits like this one of Washington by Thomas Sully (on view in Gallery 332), generally captured the fathers much later in life when they were truly fatherly, prematurely aging the founders in our perception. The white wigs haven’t helped.


3) Why all the buzz about bees? Bees are suddenly everywhere—on the cover of TIME, the front page of the New York Times, and other media around the world—because they’re suddenly nowhere. A mysterious malady has reduced honeybee colonies by 30 to 50 percent every year since 2006, threatening many fruits and vegetables, not to mention honey.

The MIA has responded by hosting four bee colonies on its roof, celebrating the longstanding connection between art and nature exemplified in this Art Nouveau pitcher (note the bee crawling around the corn husk), on view in Gallery 379.