Saturday, May 4, 2013

Back at the Louvre

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, after touring many of the great art collections of Europe, I have to give the Louvre the nod as the largest and overall most impressive collection I’ve seen.  Others sometimes speak more to my heart, but the Louvre is simply overwhelming. 

On the walk to it, I took a different path than usual and strolled by this lovely church, whose name I never caught.

Click on any image to see a larger version.

On the lawn across the street from the pyramid, people enjoyed the day that was, despite being completely overcast, balmy and lovely.

The first sight of Winged Victory of Samothrace always touches me. 

Up close, despite the missing bits and the restoration, she is truly magnificent, lovely from every angle and, for me, more moving than most sculpture. 

What remains of her right hand sits in a nearby case, an oddly touching fragment reaching forever for nothing.

If you’ve read my Florence entries, you know how much I love certain Italian painters.  One of my favorites is Botticelli.  I don’t recall seeing frescoes from him, but I in the Louvre I was lucky enough to get to study two of them.  Both are clearly incompletely but nonetheless beautiful. 

The Louvre will take on anyone in any area.  You want a ceiling fight?  The Louvre is ready.

Gorgeous work by Lippi was readily available. 

Want some more Botticelli?  Take three. 

Okay, make it four.

By the way, the Louvre permits non-flash photography, so I wasn’t breaking any rules this time.

One side of one floor of one of the four major wings is the Grand Gallery.  I took this shot from one end to give you a sense of the scale of just this one gallery.

As near as I could tell, they don’t know who painted this one, but it interested me.

How Bartolomeo got away with painting this odd tableau I do not know, but I very much liked it.

Veronese was definitely in the house!

If I hadn’t seen his largest painting—and the world’s largest oil painting—in Venice, this would have been the biggest Veronese work I’d ever seen.

I know next to nothing about Paris Bordone, but after seeing this beautiful portrait, I want to see more of his work. 

Titian had a presence.

As did the amazing Raphael. 

Andrea di Bartolo filled a few walls.  I quite liked this one.

And then there were the Da Vinci paintings.  Yes, I again saw the Mona Lisa, though only through a giant scrum of people kept at bay by a wood partition, four guards, and two layers of glass.  Yes, the Mona Lisa is all you’ve heard and more.  So, though, are the other works of his on display. 

Any time you start to think you’re smart and feel like you might be getting too big for your britches, no matter you are, think about Da Vinci, and get humble.  I sure do. 

My new buddy, Arcimboldo (go back to the Vienna entries to see more of his work), had two pieces here, including this entry in his Seasons series, Autumn. 

As big as many of the paintings in the Grand Gallery were, the Louvre has a whole section of a wing dedicated to “large-format” paintings.  Among them was this wonderful Delacroix. 

Ingres’ Odalisque deserves all the praise it’s received, more lovely in person than in any book. 

I like David’s work, but a lot of it feels static and posed.  For no good reason, this one did not strike me that way, and I very much liked it. 

Hours after entering it, I left the Louvre, my brain and heart full from so much great art.  After two long visits to it, I hadn’t seen even a quarter of it.  Another reason to go back to Paris!

I wish I were wealthy enough to be able to take all my friends to the Louvre and these other great galleries.  Seeing the art in person is a completely different experience from studying it in a book. 

Outside, a gorgeous spring garden provided a great way for me to re-enter the world. 

The back of Notre Dame in the fading light of a gray day. 

The day ending, on the bridge to Notre Dame from Ile Saint-Louis, a strange man chanted and invoked odd magicks in the service of odd art from recycled materials—and in the hopes of gathering a few coins from passersby.

Ah, Paris, I will miss you!

Now, I’m in Miami International Airport waiting for the flight to RDU.  It’s also good to be back in the U.S. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Louvre: The ultimate art home-court advantage

It is.  It just is.  I'll tell you more about my long second (of this trip) visit to the Louvre, but not now; that will have to wait until tomorrow.  I have to get up quite early in the morning to start the long process of traveling home, and I have yet to pack.  Plus, I haven't gotten up early in six weeks!  (Yeah, I know:  you have no sympathy.)

More tomorrow.

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. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Holiday, rainy day, Eiffel Tower, Mom

May 1 is a national holiday in France, so all the museums, all the shops, and nearly all restaurants were closed today.  It rained most of the day and was windy and brisk (mid fifties) outside.  I am coming down with a cold.  To top it off, today is Mom's birthday.

So, I didn't do much today.

I mostly slept, read, and relaxed.  I went for a walk for some reasonably priced water and Coke Zero, and also because I'm now so in the habit of walking a lot every day that I don't feel right if I don't.

In the late afternoon, the rain stopped, but the day was still dreary and overcast.  I'd been hoping to make it to the Eiffel Tower, and I figured a lot of people would have stayed away because of the weather.  So, I grabbed a cab there--the couple of mile walk would have been too much in this weather given my cold--and was able to get upstairs easily and relatively quickly. 

Even through the haze, the view was gorgeous.

Click on any image to see a larger version.

Paris can't help but be lovely.

A view of the tower from a nearby pond and grotto that I hadn't visited before. 

Said pond and grotto, which I quite liked.

I'm mostly losing to this cold, so I've decided to take a nighttime cold medicine in the hopes that it will dry up my sinuses and help me avoid getting sicker.  Given all the places I've been and all the crowds I've encountered, I suppose getting a cold was likely, if not inevitable.  Still, I hope to stop it before it becomes bad.

Mom's birthday makes this a bit of a melancholy day, because I miss her very much.  I think of her and miss her often.  I suppose I always will.

Tomorrow, cold permitting, I hope to go see more great art!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Versailles fail

During this trip, I've made it a point to see as many grand palaces and collections as possible.  Being in Paris, I thus clearly had to go see the Palace of Versailles, where Louis XIV showed that he could live in as much luxury as anybody.

The train ride there was quick (35 minutes), easy, and mostly pleasant.  The only unpleasant bit occurred when a pair of older men with accordions insisted on playing two songs and then demanded that all of us in the car pay them to make them stop.  (Okay, maybe that's not what they intended, but that's how it felt.)  You can just see the keyboard of one of them in this blurry photo.

Click on any image to see a larger version.

From the train station, it's a short walk to the avenue that leads to the grand palace.  Along the way, you encounter this statue of the Sun King; I liked that a bird was resting comfortably atop him.

The approach was lovely, but the palace was thronged with tourists, more than I've encountered at any other place.

Everywhere else I've gone on this trip, I've waltzed up, stood in a short line for tickets, stood in another line to enter, and been inside the place in a very short time.

Not here.  After over two hours standing in the line for people who needed to buy tickets, a woman announced in several languages over loudspeakers that the line to get in was at least an hour and a half long.  I still didn't have a ticket, though I could see the door to the ticket area, so a little quick arithmetic made clear that I'd be lucky to get an hour in the place.  Though I hated wasting all that time freezing--it was 54, but the wind was constant and routinely gusted to 18 mph--there was no point in continuing.

Later, I asked the concierge about Versailles, and he had a drawer full of tickets he sold for the same price as the ticket shop at the palace.

My Versailles fail was not a pretty thing.  I was stupid, and I paid for it.

Back near the train station in Versailles, I veered into a warm and cozy cafe for a very late lunch of wonderful Vittel water

and a very tasty Croque Madame sandwich with salad.

Back in Paris, the trees in the Tuileries were green and lovely, so I stopped nearly in the middle of the main path for a shot toward the Arc de Triomphe

and another in the opposite direction toward the Louvre.

It's easy to forget how long the Tuileries is.

The carousel was operating, and kids were happily riding it.

The chestnut trees were blooming in vivid white and pink.

A 1908 statue of Charles Perrault by Gabriel Edouard Baptiste stood near where a group of kids were playing on an awesome multi-trampoline construction that I wished I could have played on, too.

A little further along, this lovely 1695 Pierre Legros statue, Veturie ou le Silence ou Vestale, stood in the same gardens where it has been since 1722, longer than the U.S. has been an independent nation. 

Nearby, a far more modern fountain attracted few admirers on this blustery day. 

I expect that on warm days it would be a huge draw. 

Perhaps I will take another run at Versailles later this week.  Or not.  Stay tuned to find out.


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