(2007) We arrived on Bastille Day, a seemingly auspicious time to begin our Art adventures in Paris. Too late for the parade, we put all our celebratory eggs in one basket – watching the fireworks from Sacre Coeur on  Montmartre. We weren’t the only one’s with that idea, so it was a great show people watching on the steep lawn in front of the church. It was a gorgeous view of Paris, as we waited for dark. Fireworks were periodically visible from throughout the city. The big show, I believed, was coming from the Champ de Mars, just on the other side of the Seine. Seems the Champ de Mars was a bit over to the right – directly behind a small, but effectively sight-killing, stand of trees. We could see nothing more than the glow. Oh well. Everyone on the hill had been drinking wine, so that glow was shared by all.

Before continuing, I should say that this was not our first visit to Paris and therefore we have been to the Louvre on a couple of occasions and did not go there on this trip. There was so much more Art to see.

The next day was Sunday, so we got up a little late and headed for the Avenue Haussmann with the hope of having lunch under Printemp’s famed stained glass dome. When we got there, the entire area, it turned out, was devoid of people and all the stores were closed. Not only was it Bastille Day weekend, it was summertime, when all the real Parisians leave town.

We continued down Haussmann admiring the Opera Garnier and other sights until we came to the Musée Jacquemart-André. After paying the admission, we went straight to the café where we had only a short wait for a table. The café was in a large room that was part of the original mansion. We were seated on the piazza.

Revived, we began exploring this museum, the result of Edouard André and his wife Nélie Jacquemart’s collecting. They were a childless couple who spent their lives and fortunes designing, building and then decorating this sumptuous mansion.

On display were Rembrandt, Botticelli, Uccello, Tiepolo, Chardin Mantegna, Bellini, and Boucher. The Winter Garden, with its marble staircase, was particularly appealing. Walls to adjoining rooms could be removed for grander entertaining.

From there we cut over to the Champs Elysee, where we found all the people. At least tourists out for a stroll. Admiring buildings while getting in position to get a good picture of the Arc de Triomphe with the flags still up from Bastille Day. There was a nice Art Nouveau arcade of shops and the Toyota showroom highlighting their artistic side.

From there we cut across to the Trocadero Palace where we found lots more Parisians.  Some stripped down to their underwear to frolic in the fountains.

The rest of the day was spent looking at Paris’s Art on the streets. Click here to see pics.

Since most museums were closed on Mondays, we took advantage and looked at the Art one might find at the largest flea markets in Paris at Clignancourt and the Rue des Rosiers: Marché Vernaison, Marché Antica, Marché Cambo, Marché Biron, Marché Dauphine. They seem to all run together and we were not disappointed. Everything from a six-foot Eiffel tower made from matchsticks to a little carved wooden bear we took home.

Then back downtown for some Art.

Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou was open and there were no lines. The brainchild of President Georges Pompidou, the controversial building designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, is an original cultural institution in the heart of Paris completely focused on modern and contemporary creation. The Centre opened in 1977.

Visiting here is an adventure in itself. A temporary exhibit by Anne Messenger was on the ground floor – soft-sculpture, body parts, old colored pencils stuck through cloth gloves, not worthy of further description. Same can be said for the second special exhibit. When we figured out the way to the main exhibits upstairs I was told, with a sneer, that I must return to the first floor to check my backpack. From the ground floor you go up an escalator to the ticket takers then sort of outside the building to ascend on a series of escalators in clear tubes to the top level for an exhibit. Then back down the escalators to the fourth level where you must walk up to the fifth level to see the Musée National d'Art Moderne which features Art from 1905-1960; the Impressionists, Matisse, Picasso, Francis Picabi, a room of Giaccometti, Sonia and Robert Delaunay, one bad Motherwell, lots of Kandinsky, Calder (kinetic art). This is the second largest collection of modern art after MOMA NYC. Here's a few photos I snapped.

studio of Brancusi at Centre Pompidou

The Orsay Metro stop was being renovated, so we had a long walk before arriving at the Musée d'Orsay. There we were greeted with a long serpentine line of people waiting to get tickets. We just joined the fray. The special exhibit was entitled From Cezanne to Picasso: Masterpieces from the Ambroise Vollard Gallery.

Ambroise Vollard was the foremost Parisian art dealer of the early twentieth century and the man who gave Cezanne, Picasso, and Maillol their first one-man shows. He was the center of the Paris art world from the 1890's until his death in 1939. Vollard understood that artists, in order to survive, need exposure and emotional support as much as they need money. Maillol once said, "It is thanks to Vollard that I am able to live." At a time when most dealers and critics ignored or trashed the modernists, Vollard boldly and perceptively bought their work. His gallery on the rue Lafitte became the meeting place for the avant-garde. A shrewd businessman, Vollard bought low and sold high to courageous collectors, such as Gertrude and Leo Stein, and Alfred Barnes. With this fortune Vollard launched a second career as a publisher of prints and fine illustrated books. He commissioned graphics from Maurice Denis, Odilon Redon, Degas, Rouault, Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Picasso. He also wrote biographies of his favorite artists, brought out bronze casts of sculptures by Maillol, Bonnard, Picasso, and Renoir, and found time somehow to sit for portraits. A large, gruff, course, individual - he nevertheless inspired his artist friends: Picasso did a cubist study of him, Bonnard painted him with his cat, and Renoir portrayed him as a toreador. "The most beautiful woman who ever lived," Picasso said,"never had her portrait painted, drawn, or engraved more often than Vollard."

The exhibition featured works by Bonnard, Cézanne, Degas, Derain, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Maillol, Matisse, Picasso, Redon, Renoir, Rouault, Rousseau, Vlaminck, Vuillard, and others. Highlights included five paintings from Vollard's landmark 1895 Cézanne exhibition; a never-before-reassembled triptych from his 1896–97 Van Gogh retrospective; the masterpiece Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? from Vollard’s 1898 Gauguin exhibition; paintings from Picasso's first French exhibition (1901) and Matisse's first solo exhibition (1904); and three pictures from Derain's London series, painted in 1906–07 at Vollard's suggestion. The exhibition also includes numerous portraits of Vollard by leading artists, among them Cézanne, Bonnard, Renoir, and Picasso. Whether it was commissioned, exhibited, or owned by him, each of these works at one time passed through Vollard's hands.

The Art of another painter in the museum caught our eye. Please allow me to insert a short bio here:

Marie Laurencin was born on October 31, 1883 in Paris, the illegitimate daughter of Pauline Laurencin and Alfred Toulet, though she would not learn her father’s identity officially until she was twenty-two, eight years after his death. Having been last in all of her subjects at the Lycée Lamartine, Laurencin studied porcelain painting at the Sèvres factory. She later entered the Académie Humbert, where she met Georges Braque and Georges Lepape. In 1907 she exhibited at Clovis Sagot’s gallery in Montmartre. There, Pablo Picasso introduced her to Guillaume Apollinaire, with whom she would be romantically involved until 1913. Throughout the course of their relationship, both would serve as a source of artistic inspiration for each other. Through Picasso and Apollinaire, Laurencin frequented the Bateau Lavoir, where she made the acquaintances of Fernande Olivier, Max Jacob, André Salmon, Maurice Raynal, Maurice Cremnitz, Gertrude Stein, and André Derain, among others. Her 1908 Group of Artists was purchased by Gertrude Stein; Laurencin’s first sale. The painting is a group portrait of Laurencin, Apollinaire, Picasso and his mistress, Fernande Olivier. Apollinaire encouraged Laurencin to publish two of her poems, Hier and Présent, which she did under the pseudonym Louise Lalanne in the poetry review Les Marges. She and Apollinaire posed for Henri Rousseau’s painting La Muse Inspirant le Poète. There were more exhibitions; Portrait of Mme Fernande X, and Young Girls with the Cubists, in Gallery 41 in the Salon des Indépendants. Laurencin also created the illustrations for the book Un Petit Brévaire d’Amour. The first such artistic venture, she later went on to illustrate over eighty books. Upon the outbreak of World War I, she and new husband Baron Otto Von Wätjen fled to Spain. During that time, Laurencin associated with the artists Sonia and Robert Delaunay and Francis Picabia. She contributed some poems to Picabia’s art review, 391 in 1917.  Back in Paris and divorced, she designed the set and costumes for Les Biches for Les Ballets Russes, which premiered in Monte Carlo and was later shown at the Théâtre Champs-Elysées in Paris to much acclaim. At this time, Laurencin was much in demand as a costume and set designer, as well as a society portraitist. Her clients included Coco Chanel.

Marie died in her Paris apartment on June 8, 1956 and was buried in the cemetery Père-Lachaise, according to her wishes, dressed in white with a rose in one hand and Apollinaire’s love letters by her heart. Click here for a few of her paintings.

 Group of Artists

We ate lunch on the terrace outside the museum café, overlooking the Seine, before continuing with the orgy of Art. The museum is broken down into: 1) Impressionist and Post-Impressionist (Cézanne, Gaugin, Matisse, Pissarro, Redon, Seurat, Signac, Sisley, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Whistler, Pont Aven, Nabis ); 2) Academics, Naturalism, Symbolism, Art Nouveau (Denis, Gaudi, Klimt, Maillol, Munch, Rodin, Vuillard); and 3) Pre-Impressionism (Degas, Delacroix, Ingres, Renoir, Manet, Monet).

Across the Seine was the Musée de l'Orangerie des Tuileries. Inside, two elliptical rooms housed the Monet murals entitled Les Nymphéas. Monet first made the gift of the water lily murals, then chose the building to house them in 1927.

The current incarnation opened in 2006 after a six-year renovation. Downstairs was Art from the Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume Collection, featuring Cézanne, Renoir, Picasso, Rousseau, Matisse, Derain, Modigliani, Soutine, Utrillo and Laurencin. Also on display were sections of the ancient fortress walls found during the renovation.

On the way to Gare de Lyon, we discovered Le Viaduc des Arts. Rather than tearing down the old (1859) brick-and-stone viaduct that carried suburban trains until the 1970s, the city converted the one-mile from the Opéra Bastille to the Jardin de Reuilly into a pedestrian promenade. Next the vaulted spaces beneath the rail line were converted into craftsmen's workshops and galleries - from cabinet and musical-instrument makers, to fashion designers, textile restorers, and other businesses related to the arts.

Across the Seine was the Jardin des Plantes where we found this recycled dragon sculpture and a carousel of prehistoric animals.  Continuing along the river, we found the Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air, in the Tino Rossi Jardin.  An open-air sculpture museum diagonally across from Île St. Louis, it had sculptures from the second half of the 20th century by Brancusi, Gilioli, César and others.

Abellio by Aglae Liberaki
The cemetery Père Lachaise was the final resting place of many famous French artists, authors, musicians plus other celebs such as Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. After purchasing a map and doing some planning, we visited the graves of Rossini, Pissarro, Morrison, Chopin, Seurat, Bizet, Balzac, Delacroix, Ingres, Corot, La Fontaine, Moliere, Modigliani, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and Marie Laurencin, before closing time. Click here for other tombs.

Some of the statuary and stonework is outstanding.

We also made it down to the cemetery at Montparnasse, but it was closed. Among the buried there were many artists, musicians, and writers, such as: Bartholde, Samuel Beckett, Brancusi, Cesar, Henri Latour, Jean Antoine Houdon, Man Ray, Guy de Maupassant, Jean Pierre Rampall, Saint-Saens, Sartre and Soutine.

The Musée d’Art Moderne of the city of Paris was housed in the former Palais de Tokyo, overlooking the Seine. Admission is charged for the special exhibits but the permanent collection is free. We began with two  parts of the Henri Matisse triptych La Danse (1931-33) and ten other paintings from the collection of Henry Thomas. Through other donations there were paintings by: Rouault, Robert and Sonia Delaunay, Raoul Dufy, Marcel Gromaire and many others. This was previously the location for the national museum of modern art before it moved to the Pompidou Center.

Continuing west, on the way to the Musée Marmottan , we walked through le Jardin de Ranelagh where we found a bronze sculpture of fable writer La Fontaine with a fox and crow looking right at home in this fashionable 16th arrondissement neighborhood; almost to the Bois de Boulogne.

 La Fontaine, le corbeau et le renard

While the mansion and its Napoleonic artwork were the original gift of Marmottan, the featured collections were from later bequests. First, in 1957, there was the collection of the physician to Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Sisley and Renoir and one of the first lovers of impressionist painting. Then in 1966 Michel Monet, the painter's second son, left the collection of his father’s paintings, for which an underground exhibition hall was built to house what is the largest repository of Monet. The collection of Denis and Annie Rouart, given in 1996, had many Impressionist paintings, mostly Berthe Morisot which were displayed upstairs as part of the largest collection of Morisot in the world.  I found it interesting that the building was originally a hunting lodge which fit the location even now near the edge of the Bois.  It may have been in the woods when Marmottan bought it in 1882.

After the Ball by Berthe Morisot

Le Soleil Levant by Monet, 1872

The majority of our non-Art time was spent seeking carousels – Les Manèges – in every corner of the city. Even though Musée des Arts Forains, which has one of the world's finest collections of carousels, was closed for the summer, we were able to visit seventeen carousels and get a ride on most. Some were just too old to support an adult, or too small. Click here to see a video of our discoveries.

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