Photo Of The Day: Take Five In Paris

So it’s 2013. We made it through the holiday travel crush, the potential end of the world, and the quest for the perfect New Year’s Eve celebration. It’s almost the first weekend of the year; can we take a breather now? This gentleman at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris is taking a bit of a time out, looking peaceful and enjoying the art/furniture (as well as perhaps the view of nearby Montmartre), almost looking as he was meant to be a part of the exhibit.

Add your restful photos to the Gadling Flickr pool for a future Photo of the Day.

[Photo credit: Flickr user kumukulanui]

Encountering Monet At The Musee d’Orsay

Reading Gadling’s marvelous Museum Month posts has reminded me of a trip I made two decades ago to Paris. I had fallen in love with that exhilarating city in the mid-1970s, when I lived there for two successive summers, first after my junior year in college and then after graduation. I returned in 1988 to celebrate the city, and as part of that celebration, I wanted to write an essay about the poignancy and power of the artworks I had discovered at the Louvre, the Musee Rodin, the Musee de Cluny, the Petit Palais, the Musee d’Orsay, and many other museums and galleries.

First I thought I would write about all the showplaces for art that I liked in Paris, but I quickly realized that I couldn’t possibly do justice to so many places in a compact piece. I had to focus. I considered describing my favorite three museums, then just one museum, then three rooms in that museum, then three favorite pieces of art there. But though I narrowed my focus more and more, every one of these subjects still seemed too broad.

Finally I decided to focus on one painting in one museum, my favorite painting in all of Paris. I installed myself near that painting for about an hour, and scribbled in my journal. I have that journal before me now. Here’s what I wrote.I have been looking at Monet’s “Les coquelicots,” the painting of two women and children walking through a field of bright red poppies on a sunny, cloud-dappled day, for about 40 minutes. It moves me just as profoundly now as it did when I was last in Paris 12 years ago; it still tugs deep within me, cuts through all the layers to something fresh and fundamental and childlike.

At first I stared at it closely, my nose within a foot of the canvas, so close that I could see the black-dot eyes of the child in the foreground – something I had never seen before, or at least never remembered seeing.

Get that close and you reduce the painting to its elements: layers of oil paint on canvas, brush strokes, dabs, tiny tip-tips with the brush. You realize just how fragile a thing a painting is, and just how common. And you realize too that it was made by a man – fragile, common – who stood at the canvas and thought: “a little more red here,” dab, dab; “a cloud there,” push, push; “how can I capture that light?”

Look at the painting closely this way for a few minutes and you break it down into an intricate complexity of colors and textures and forms.

Then step back and – voila! – all of a sudden it is a composed whole, a painting: a cloud-bright sky and poppy-bright field, a woman with a fancy hat and a parasol and a child almost hidden by the tall grasses in the foreground, and in the background another woman and a child almost obscured against a distant stand of trees. They are on a walk, or a picnic – a story begins to compose itself, to take on a life inside and outside the canvas.

And you realize that this is a kind of miracle, that colors and shapes dabbed on a piece of cloth 115 years ago have somehow reached across time and culture to touch you.

Look long enough and feel deeply enough, and your eyes fill with tears.

And when you feel these wet, cool, unexpected tears, you look around you suddenly as if waking from a dream, and see men and women in shorts, blue jeans, dresses and sportcoats, holding guidebooks and pointing at the canvas and sighing, or whispering in passionate appreciation.

You feel strangely displaced – for a moment it was your painting, or rather, you were a part of it, and now you are outside it again – but then you think, “This too is part of the miracle, that one painting can touch so many people.”

You think of art’s extraordinary power, that a scattering of people and poppies in a field can push age, despair, fatigue and cynicism away, can focus you so intensely on this time, this place; that time, that place.
You stand close to the canvas again and see the complexity of colors – the fields all gray, brown, green, yellow-green; the poppies red and pink; the sky a mixture of light and dark blues; the clouds gray, purple, white.

You see that the forms are simple: a gently rolling landscape; smoothly, sparingly suggested people. And that the child in the foreground holds flowers that are almost the same color as the band in his (her?) hat.
You step back one last time and see peace, lightness, a sense of infinite wonder and potential, a childlike purity.

And when you return to the luminous streets you know you will hold that vision in your head, like a handful of flowers on a country-bright day.

You know that you have returned to Paris. You know that, deep inside, you were never away.

[flickr image via biscarotte]

Louvre, Versailles, Mont Saint-Michel on strike alert tomorrow

Workers at Paris’ modern art center Pompidou are already on strike over planned job cuts, but those at other French museums and landmarks could join in their fight tomorrow.

Seven unions are threatening to walk off the job on December 2nd if their demands aren’t met by the MInistry of Culture. They’re boycotting the government’s plan to cut cultural positions, which would replace only one out of every two civil servants who retire.

The Pompidou Center is Paris’ second most popular museum. If the cuts move forward, 400 of the museum’s 1,100 jobs could be cut over the next 10 years. More than 40 percent of workers there are 50 years or older.

Other tourist sites potentially shutting down during the strike are Notre Dame, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Pantheon. However, the Eiffel Tower would not be affected.

Renoir going to Paris, you should too

Don’t you want to hang out in Paris with Renoir? The exhibit “Renoir in the 20th Century” is coming to the national Galleries of the Grand Palais on September 23, 2009 and will stay through December 21, 2009. That gives you plenty of opportunity to soak in what promises to be an impressive exhibition. And, since you’re already hooked on Paris (who isn’t?), Concorde Hotels & Resorts is trying to lure you in the door … which shouldn’t be that hard when you see what they’re offering.

So, shell out for a hotel room (starting at $282 a night), and you’ll pick up two priority tickets to the Renoir exhibition and buffet breakfast for two for every night you stay. You can choose from six hotels for this package.

  • Hotel de Crillon – this 18th century masterpiece has a history closely linked to that of the Place de la Concorde
  • Hotel du Louvre – facing the Musée du Louvre and the Opéra Garnier in the heart of Paris’ fashion district, Hotel du Louvre is differentiated by its colorful interior
  • Hotel Lutetia – the grand hotel on the Left Bank is right in the middle of the action of Saint-Germain des Prés and its fashion boutiques and isn’t far from the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Musée d’Orsay
  • Hotel Concorde St. Lazare – uniquely charming and only a short walk from the Opéra Garnier and several famous Parisian department stores
  • Hotel Concorde La Fayette – located between the Champs-Elysées and La Défense
  • Hotel Concorde Montparnasse – you’ll find it in the heart of Montparnasse