Thursday, May 2, 2013

Paris perfection

Paris delivered a perfect day today.  High sixties, a light breeze, and perfectly clear skies made walking outside a treat.  Remember that fountain I showed in yesterday's post, the one with only a few people sitting near it?  Here's what it looked like today.

Click on any image to see a larger version.

Not far from this fountain stands the Musee de l'Orangerie, a museum I've repeatedly meant to visit but had not yet managed to tour.  Today, I did. 

If you're not familiar with the Orangerie, its main focus is a set of eight paintings of water lillies, the Nympheas, that Claude Monet created specifically to go there.  He painted these huge canvases after the government agreed to display them in two specially designed oval rooms in the museum.  He finished them in about a year, just a few years before he died, but he wouldn't give them up until his death.  I've seen a lot of Monet, and I quite like his work, so I was pleased to get the chance to see these paintings. 

I was not prepared, however, for how brilliant and moving they are.  Books simply cannot do them justice.  I broke the no-photo rule once with this picture, just to give you some sense of the scope of these canvases. 

I would have taken more shots, but the guards were numerous and vigilant. 

I walked and stared and studied these paintings.  Where you see bright lights, the paint is thick, the artist working relentlessly to capture exactly the right light.  I thought about the man doing the work.  He started these eight pieces at age 81 and finished them about a year later.  His eyesight was failing.  Impressionism as a movement was history.  With all of this against him, he created these amazing masterworks, canvases full of passion and light and the soul of Giverny, a place he loved. 

I've thought a lot about my writing this trip, and myself as an artist, and a great deal of thinking has left me depressed about the tiny bit I've accomplished.  Monet and the Nympheas, however, reminded me of a very simple truth:  we have no excuse for not giving it our best.  It doesn't matter how old you are, or what you've done before:  you have to do the best work you can now.  I have to do the best work I can now.

Thank you, Claude Monet, for the beautiful art and the inspiration. 

The Orangerie also contains the many paintings that were the collection of Paul Guillaume.  I particularly enjoyed his large set of Renoir canvases, many of which I had never seen before.  I managed to sneak a shot of this one, which I loved. 

The third exhibit on display was a large selection of paintings by a group of Italian artists known as the Macchiaioli.  The term began with critics, who used it to denounce their work as unfinished sketches, but the artists appropriated it for themselves.  They worked in the second half of the 1800s and departed from the norms of their time by painting outdoors a great deal.  I had known nothing about them before, but I very much enjoyed their work.  I'll be on the lookout for more paintings from such artists as Giovanni Fattori and Giuseppe Abbati. 

Outside, a few clouds were gathering, but the day was still gorgeous.  Cleopatra's Needle gleamed in the daylight, but for some reason this shot made it look ominous against some dark clouds. 

It was a perfect day for walking, so down the gardens I went.  This statue, The Muse by A. Burganov, caught my fancy. 

The gardens screamed spring and were stunning.

Near the end of the gardens, children sat on the grass and watched a Punch and Judy show in this nearly hidden little theater.

To top off the day, dinner was a return to Restaurant Guy Savoy for a truly remarkable meal that featured numerous delicious courses and service so good that other restaurants would be wise to hire the staff as trainers. 

I could not have asked for a more perfect day in Paris. 


Dave Drale said...

Dear Mark,

Wandering through a bookstore yesterday I saw a display of art books on various artists including Fattore and Vega. I wondered who they were.

Now, thanks to you, I know.

I would be buying many more books if they were in english, and if I were checking baggage. Guidebooks are weighing me down already.


Mark said...

I plan to order a lot of art books when I get home. I have no room for them now.

I don't know of Vega, but there is a Macchiaioli artist Silvestro Lega.

Dave Drale said...

Dear Mark,
I probably swapped V for L.
We're just back from the Gallery of Modern Art which is amazing and not crowded at all. There are some huge paintings by Fattore--his history paintings which gained his reputation.

Unknown said...


I am delighted to see you having a such a good time.


Mark said...

I look forward to visiting that museum one day.


Blog Archive