Saturday, May 12, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris Part 8: It Was Too Far to Walk

Modigliani, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mondrian,  Picasso, Pissarro, and van Gogh--all the artists whose paintings I had loved and admired most of my life, the artists whose work I had sought to see in museums for the last few days, had all spent time in the Bohemian area of Montmartre. How could I leave Paris without visiting the place where art studios were inhabited by these great artists?

Unlike every other day of my trip, it was too far to walk to Montmartre, so I found the metro and was on my way.

This area is home of the Moulin Rouge and other night clubs where artists met to drink and share ideas about the twists and turns art was making as it left the romantic realism behind. Impressionism, post-impressionism were about to evolve into cubism and abstract expressionism.

This was the home of clubs and bars where Toulouse-Lautrec sketched and painted "ladies of the night." Where, no doubt, the other male artists frequently visited their favorite ladies as well.

Montmartre is where the Can-Can began and some of the most well-known posters  originated advertising the entertainment establishments.  Who wouldn't be drawn to the "Black Cat" for a late night drink?

Although this hill in Paris has a very long history, I was there to walk in the footprints of more recent history. My friend Toni recommended taking a walking tour which meant meeting a guide near a metro stop, then wandering around uphill and down through Montmartre.

This part of Paris was spared or ignored during the demolition and rebuilding of Paris in the second half of the 1800's. It has remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years and is now protected as a historic district, with no development allowed.

There is a small vineyard in Montmartre, where about 135 gallons of wine are produced annually. The vineyard is owned by the city of Paris.

The Musée de Montmartre is housed in the oldest building in Montmartre, built in the 1600's. It was often the meeting place of artists such as Renoir and Bernard who had their studios in the building. It was turned into a museum in 1960.

This odd statue is based on a story about a man who had the capability of walking though walls. This allowed him to begin an affair with a married woman. When they heard her husband come home, the man would simply slip out of the house through a wall until one night his power failed him mid-exit.

The most impressive building of Montmartre is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and that is where the walking tour ended. This Romano-Byzantine style building is fairly new--began in 1875 and finished in 1914. It is a huge and complex structure that can be seen from miles away on it's perch at the base of the butte Montmartre. 

I entered the Basilica and enjoyed one last dose of the art of Paris before climbing down the hill to a metro stop. Then it was back to the hotel to pack up for an early flight. 

I had one last dinner, with wine, of course. As I made my final journal entry at the table, I felt overwhelmed with the thought that this adventure was coming to an end. At the end of the meal, the server took my hand and kissed it. He said in his lovely French accent, "I hope to see you again." The feeling is mutual!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris Part 7: Anna and I Pop In to the Musée d'Orsay

Three years ago, Anna and her sister Rose joined Mike, Angelica (granddaughter) and me in Paris. It was our last stop on our Egypt-France trip of 2015. We all visited the Musée d'Orsay at that time, but Anna and I agreed we did not see as much as we could have, so we set off for another round of impressionist and post-impressionist art and much more.

D'Orsay is such as spectacular building--it was once a railway station built arounc 1900, but as trains grew longer, the short platforms of the building were no longer workable. It had several uses before it became a museum in 1986--a mailing station during WWII, the backdrop for many films, etc.

This post is primarily an opportunity for me to share the art I love the most from that museum, so here goes.

Can I ever get enough of 
Van Gogh?


Like so many artists of this time, the Japanese woodblocks greatly influenced Gauguin.

Gauguin's art found his unique voice when he traveled to and painted the lifestyle of French Polynesia.  

I really love the simplification of the paintings of the following artists:




Wouldn't you guess Klimpt? But this similar style belongs to




These two Monet paintings were new to me:  Turkeys . . .

And a painting of his dead wife.

I find this piece so stunning!


And finally, the one woman artist painting I could find,


It had been a wonderful two days with Anna. We had seen loads of art, laughed at shared memories,  and told stories of events since we last saw each other. We had a fabulous dinner together in a fancy restaurant the night before, but now she had to head back to Lyon to work and her life there. 

I had one more day in Paris. What would I do?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris Part 6: Anna Joins Me

On my arrival in Paris, my friend Anna offered to visit me on the weekend--she lives and works in Lyon. By the time she arrived, I had enjoyed the freedom of traveling alone for five days and was ready for a companion, especially for meals. Anna and I share an interest in art and can outlast most folks in a museum.

Anna with the background of Garden Tuileries
Me with the Louvre behind me

Anna arrived late morning and we chose to go to the Musée de L'Orangerie, home of Monet's eight tremendous murals.

Once again, it was a short walk from the hotel: over a bridge, along the Seine, by the Louvre and through the Tuileries Garden.

There are two large circular rooms which house the murals--four to each room. Monet offered these immense murals to the French government the day after the Armistice of November 11, 1918 as a symbol of peace. They were installed months after his death in 1927, so he never viewed them in their entirety.

These murals are mesmerizing and to be able to walk up and see the brushstrokes is such an education in impressionism.
But Monet is not all this museum has to offer. Walking downstairs, one is facing a huge painting by American artist, Joan Mitchell. 

I found an exhibit of work by Nigerian born artist Otobong Nkanga especially interesting. "Back to the Hole" was one of several fascinating works on display. What does is mean?

Back to the Hole by Nkanga

And then this museum is home to many more artists' work.




I had intended to have one very "French" meal while in Paris. Now that Anna was with me, it was the perfect time for the splurge. After inquiring at the hotel and reading reviews on TripAdvisor, we settled on eating at Le Christine. It was just a stone's throw away from the hotel. We made reservations for two and found ourselves at a small, contemporary restaurant. The menu had the typically (for Paris) priced menu: 35 Euros, 45 Euros or Chef's choice for 50 Euros. Each priced dinner offered several choices of a starter, salad, one (or two) entree, and a dessert. I really was tempted by the Chef's choice because it seemed more adventurous, but we both opted for the 35 Euro meal. As we finished our three delicate puff pastries (choux in French) filled with homemade ice cream, sitting on a bed of chocolate mousse, drizzled with chocolate sauce, Anna swore it was the fanciest food she had ever encountered. We left the restaurant feeling full and more than satisfied that we had enjoyed one of the greatest meals in Paris!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

A Solo Trip to Paris Part 5: I Fell in Love with Rodin

On my 4th full day in Paris the sun came out. After the previous days in museums, this Oregon outdoorsy woman wanted a long walk on the cold but sunny streets. As I studied my map at breakfast, I saw that I was not far from the Luxembourg Gardens. Seeing the biggest garden/park in Paris sounded like the perfect way to start the day.

I found I was not the only person in Paris ready to take in the sunshine. The park was full of like minded thinkers.  Many Parisians were taking advantage of the beautiful day.
Throughout the park are very comfortable, lightweight metal chairs for folks to sit and rearrange to one's liking. I decided to try one out and bask in the sun. I even pulled out my sketchbook to capture on paper this fellow across the path from me. I was saddened to think that if these chairs were in a park in the U.S. they'd disappear in a matter of days. 

The Luxembourg Gardens and Palace were built in the 1600's, and aside from some destruction during the French Revolution (later repaired) still stand as a place of beauty in the middle of Paris. 

After sketching and letting my mind wander, I took a look at my guidebook. I was not far from the Rodin Museum. Although this was not on my "must see" list I'd made in Blue River, I decided seeing 3 dimensional art would be a nice break from all the paintings from previous days I had swirling in my brain.

I had left the Saint-Germain district and entered the Latin Quarter. The streets were more spacious and buildings more modern. The store windows seemed more geared toward a younger, less touristy crowd. However, the street charm of Paris was still apparent.  
I was really struck with this window selling eye-glasses. Instead of using photographs of people wearing glasses, they had paintings in their window. I know many artists who would gladly create art for store windows in the U. S. 

I was now in the area of mansions, including the home of the Rodin Museum, the Hotel Biron built in the 1700s. Entering the grounds of the museum, I had a great view of the Dome Church.  And then . . .

the abundance of Rodin's statues throughout the seven acres of grounds surrounding the Museum. 

The Thinker

The sculpture of the poet Balzac below, was commissioned by a literary group, who immediately rejected it. They had expected a classical sculpture, not Balzac in his robe. Rodin spent 6 years creating this sculpture and considered it one of his best work. Rodin never saw it cast in bronze.


The Burghers of Calais below tells the story from the Hundred Years War: six leaders of Calais volunteered to be executed if the city's population was spared. This is Rodin's interpretation of the story.

The Gates of Hell was another commissioned piece that Rodin worked on for many years. The museum that the doors were commissioned for never came to be, but The Thinker and The Kiss as well as other well known sculptures were ideas taken from the doors. This was finally cast in bronze by the Rodin Museum in Philadelphia after Rodin's death.

Gates of Hell

I spent a lot of time enjoying walking through the gardens and learning about the pieces via an audio guide. The audio guide was well worth the money.

And then there was so much more inside! 

I enjoyed learning more about this famous and successful artist. He went to work as an apprentice in a decorative art shop after being rejected from art school 3 times. His work was not quickly accepted in the Paris art scene because he departed from the classical sculptures, creating emotive pieces, often interlocking several figures in unusual ways. His subject did not have to be beautiful, as the piece below proves.

She Who Was the Helmet Maker’s Once-Beautiful Wife

He also collected some paintings by artists whose work he admired.
Van Gough

I was quite taken by this elegant stair case, featuring a great painting by an artist I'd not heard of, John Lavery, an Irish painter.

Again I had another wonderful art filled day! It was time to find some food and a glass of wine. And, as always in Paris, there was a cafe nearby. What gentilhomme would not flirt with this jeune femme!