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Gardens and Museums

Posted by on April 1, 2023

Previous trips to Paris were all go go go! Our legs were younger then so we have opted for a more sedate pace this time. Our previous two visits we have stayed near the canal, but this time Jo found a lovely quirky apartment on the Left Bank, fairly close to Luxembourg Gardens – a place we had not yet visited.

We also decided to revisit some places and go to some new places, and over the next week we will be chipping away at the things we want to see. We will be visiting the Louvre later, and I will probably post about that separately, but this is a reflection of a few days of Museums and other curios we fitted in to our visit, in between lunches and pastries and beverage consumption.

Our visit to Luxembourg Gardens was not really what we were expecting. Spring in Europe is usually flowers (tulips, daffodils and other bulbs we just do not see in Queensland), but this park is more an architectural park, with long established avenues of mature shaped trees, shady copses and gravelled areas where the locals take in the sun. Lots of greenery, lawns studded with delicate daisies and areas set aside for Pétanque and Lacrosse, as well as abundant space for kids to play, an ancient Marionette theatre and cafes and bistros.

We strolled through statuary, down shady lush boulevards, around garden beds and cooled our aching feet resting on comfortable lay-back chairs watching the world go by. It is a lovely place to find a spot and just relax, as hundreds of Parisians were doing. I spent some time watching a very serious game of pétanque, and got some filthy stares from a player for taking a photo as he set up a shot – his team went on to win in what looks like a regular organised social club fixture competition.

One of our fondest French memories was when we cycled to Giverny to see Monet’s house and garden. We both love the Impressionist art style and so decided to act on that by revisiting a pair of previously visited museums to reconnect with the art. 

Musee de L’Orangerie, located in Jardin des Tuileries is a small but special gallery that was specially built to house an extraordinary panoramic set of paintings by Claude Monet. Water lilies in all seasons are lovingly and lavishly abstracted in oval-shaped rooms that when viewed in plan form an infinity sign. Sitting among the paintings is a wonderful experience, the impressions of water and vegetation play delightfully with your senses. One room’s panorama features bright colours, lively water and open colourful blooms, the other is much more somber. The effect is profound and mesmerising. I am so glad I got to see this display again. Downstairs is a more conventional gallery, with an astonishing collection of Monet and his contemporaries, with realism through to bold abstraction. There was also a visiting collection of Cezanne works, featuring a lot of his Tahiti inspired art and many of his naive-style portraits which were interesting historically.

A brisk zig up one bank of the Seine, then a blustery bridge crossing and a corresponding zag of the other took us to Musee D’Orsay, located on rue de la Légion d’honneur.

Musee D’Orsay is a grand repurposed railway station, with a huge ornate arched roof over the main chamber, break out galleries to the side and side galleries in the upper layers. Level 5 houses an astonishing collection of impressionist, abstract and post-expressionist work and this visit we had the time and energy to explore the collection. Last time here we were exhausted and Jo was fluey so we skimmed it. 

Taking the time to marvel at technique, how close up some oil paint smears resolve into glorious roses at a distance, how a pointillist can so accurately capture a landscape or portrait using spots of the most unlikely colours close up, or how the masters managed to capture the radiance and warm glow of light streaming through their paintings is just wondrous. We also wended though sculptures, explored the Art Nouveau archive of furniture and decorative fittings and took in the Van Gogh collection- just a brilliant visit we both enjoyed. It is interesting that we can marvel at technique of some paintings without actually liking the image, and others just love everything about them. Jo and I have fairly different tastes when it comes to art, that is why it has taken decades, literally, to add works to our own walls that we both love.

Based on a mysterious recommendation (thank you Chris Ryan!), after a filled baguette lunch we strolled up to a shop called “Deyrolle”, at 46 Rue du Bac. Downstairs is a curious little shop that seems to sell bespoke garden implements, books and bric-a-brac, but upstairs you are transported to a cabinet of curiosities. No photos were allowed, but imagine if you can, a menagerie of taxidermy animals (I think a stuffed Zebra would look fabulous in the right lounge room, not ours however), pinned and posed insects, shell and coral samples, all labelled, classified and able to be bought. There were vast murals of butterflies, beetles, presided over by stuffed peacocks, sloths and pickled reptiles. Such a wonderfully weird excursion and worth the diversion if you are in the area.

We also made a pilgrimage to Musee Rodin, a permanent collection of sculpture work by Augusta Rodin. Located at 77, rue de Varenne, there is a fabulous formal garden showcasing some of his most famous and monumental bronzes, and a 2 story gallery showing other works, plaster maquettes and design studies for his works that give you a clear sense of his mastery of the human form. He managed to capture such emotion in pose and expression but, interestingly, both Jo and I thought that most that the final sculptures feet and hands seem unnaturally large, the feet particularly. Seems it was his thing, but we both really enjoyed the time here, and gained a better appreciation of his art. “The Thinker” was among my favourites, but that list is long.

It is a privilege to see the work of great masters, and Paris seems to have more than it’s fair share of original works by the worlds great artists. We have lots more to explore, but this post needs to be finished – good work if you have read up until now.

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