Sunday, June 20, 2010

On the road (Europe 2010): Paris (Musée d'Orsay)

Spent most of the day at the Musée d’Orsay on the 18th. It was fun to see some old friends for the first time in many years (familiar paintings, that is) and to see some things I didn’t remember at all. There were a few new acquisitions as well, notably four large paintings by Bouguereau--of subjects rather more serious than the pretty young women he’s best known for.

Impressionism has become a cliché--if an entire art movement can become a cliché. But I suppose we can’t blame it for its own success, just as we can’t blame Vivaldi’s Four Seasons concertos for their popularity. What is best of Impressionism retains its interest. Having said that, I most enjoyed seeing work by Cezanne, Gauguin, and Degas (more post-impressionist), especially the good collection of Degas pastels.

There was an interesting special exhibit of work by Meijer de Haan, a dutch painter I’d never heard of. He started out in Amsterdam painting Jewish life in that city in a rather dark, traditional style. Like Van Gogh, his first trip to Paris, where he met many of the avant garde painters of the day through Theo Van Gogh, was a revelation. His style appears to have changed almost overnight. His later works suggest Gauguin, but have their own look, of course. He appears to have been a good friend of Gauguin and even considered accompanying him to Tahiti, but didn’t. The Orsay allows no photography, so I can’t show you any of his work, but I’ve reproduced the poster here.

Later in the day, we visited the Conciergerie, which is one of those buildings that has led so many lives that it’s hard to keep track of, but during The Terror, this was the place that held prisoners awaiting the guillotine. Marie Antionette spent her last days here, as did Robespierre himself--among a couple thousand others. The place was otherwise interesting for its ribbed vaults and large fireplaces. 

 Stopped by Notre Dame, but there was a very long line (which I’ve never seen before), so gave up on that idea, but did walk around the outside a bit. There were many catalpa trees blooming in the streets around the cathedral and in the area around the famous flower market, which were pretty. ­I captured a funny scene outside the cathedral, a father trying to take a picture of his little daughter. 

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