Europe Travel Log – Paris Part 2

Paris Part 2

Monday 19 September

We are in a new hotel, this time on the right bank of the River Seine, near the Louvre.

L’Orangerie was recommended to us by Joanne and Barry who we met on the tour of the Loire Valley. It is a museum designed by Monet to display art he completed shortly after WW1. The art is intended to provide an oasis of peace. It consists of eight panels in two rooms.

We are the first into a room empty of people. (Free and prioritised entry!) The art we see provides a jaw dropping moment. Four panels curve around a white oval room. A written description is inadequate, photos cannot do it justice.

Monet has painted waterlilies. The first panel is morning, the second cloudy, the third green reflections, the fourth setting sun. The work is supposed to be endless, without horizon. I am excited, exhilarated, uplifted … I love looking at it in fragments, framing segments with my hands and enjoying what I see. I can spend hours doing this.

I move into the next room where Monet has painted willows. Clear morning with willows, morning with willows, the two willows, and tree reflection. I do the same here and look at the painting in fragments. In this way there are hundreds of paintings to look at. The detail becomes clearer.

It is a moving experience.

Downstairs are paintings by other impressionists. There are some very good Renoir, especially his nudes, and some Picasso. I am sated on Monet.

We walk to the Louvre to see if we can find some of Ruben’s work, having seen some in Chenonceau. We are still bubbling from Monet.

Once again (and in the same day!) we have a jaw dropping moment. We walk into the Medici gallery of the Louvre and there are twenty four paintings by Rubens, all commissioned by Catherine de Medici to show her life as ruler of France. A retrospective of her life, that of a “great woman”. She must have been a megalomaniac but thank goodness she was. These are Ruben’s greatest work. They are allegorical, drawing on Roman and Greek mythology, a fusion of reality with the fantastic. They are brilliant paintings in every way. Peter and I stay in this room, looking at these huge paintings for hours. They combine the power of Titian, the whimsy of da Vinci, the talent of genius. Utterly magnificent.

Two OMG moments in one day!

I also want to find the self portrait done by Elizabeth Louise Vegee-Le Brun. She painted Marie Antoinette and I think that she is the only decent French artist to emerge before the impressionists. On the way we find two rooms of impressionist paintings, yet we had been told at the information desk there were none! There are paintings by Sisley, Monet, Toulouse-Letrec, Renoir, and Pissaro!

What a day!

Finally, an attendant takes us to the Vegee-Le Brun paintings. Not only is there a self portrait, but four other beautiful paintings. Her self portrait includes her child. The detail, light and luminosity is amazing. Something that artists strive for, but rarely achieve. She is a great artist!

We pass some shops near the Louvre and Peter persuades me to go in to one. It’s a jumble of clothing but I find an unbelievably chic jacket. I don’t want to take it off. I ask an assistant for help to find jeans. She brings me pair after pair, but it’s the first pair I try on that I want.

All this in one day … Unbelievable!

We meet Joanne and Barry for dinner at the Polidor in St Germaine. No reservations, we queue. It has been the Polidor since 1845 and it is a great experience. Not only is the company excellent, Joanne is a wise woman, but the ambience and food is wonderful. People are crammed in … Sharing tables … No spare space … The waiter is crazy busy but always cheerful. I love this place. I’m rarely impressed by restaurants, and even more rarely do I recommend one. This I recommend!

Tuesday 20 September

Joanne and Barry also recommended the Musee Marmottan Monet. I have never heard of it and it is some distance from our hotel. However, it has the world’s largest collection of Monet. It’s in what was probably once a gentrified area of Paris and was the residence of the man whose collection this was. The Monet collection has been added to, of course.

Before we even get to the Monet s, I have found two artists new to me whose work is fabulous. The first is that of Berthe Morisot, a friend of Manet and Degas and other painters. I love her self portrait and a painting of two small children. She is an impressionist and as good as any of her contemporaries.

The second artist is Jules Cheret whose painting is “la Parissienne”. Written on it is

“To my dear Claude Monet, your friend and admirer, Jules Cheret”. It’s a delightful, almost characature painting of what appears to be a rather pretentious modern (for the time) woman.

Another painting worth mentioning is hanging in the entry. I recognize the subject immediately … The schonbrunn palace! Painted in the early nineteenth century I can see where the road will be.

There rooms of Monet’s paintings. Some of the work is vibrant, painted as his eyesight was failing, some is quieter. Many were painted in and of Giverney, some from his travels. It is exhilarating at the time, but also exhausting for the mind to decipher so much colour.

A delight to see is a Rodin statue of a father with baby. This was owned by Monet, and kept in his room.

I go back to see my two new artists then it’s time to leave.

We walk most of the way to Musee D’Orsay for one last look at van Gogh’s work. It is clearly autumn. The leaves are beautiful shades of gold and orange. A few trees are bare already.

When we reach the D’Orsay we make straight for the van Gogh rooms. I could go back there a dozen times and be struck by something new in something familiar. I spend ages looking at “The Chimnies of Cordville” (peering in between tourists), it’s crowded.

We take a last look around – Rodin’s Gates of Hell in plaster (Rodin minimized this), and Toulouse Letrec. His big square canvasses of the cancan dancers are terrific. I see more each time I look. No print can capture the essence of these works.

Finally, we finish the day with a boat ride on the Seine! It’s Paris from only a slightly different perspective, but Paris is Paris, and the Seine is the Seine!

Bye bye, Paris. For now.

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