Un florilège

IMG_4857Le Petit Palais, in the heart of Paris has two shows dedicated to 18th century art on now through July 9, 2017. One is Le Baroque des Lumières featuring the best paintings from Parisian churches and the other is De Watteau à David. What a century this was far art, from Boucher’s frolicsome picnics, historical paintings, ancient ruins, to the art of the French revolution. The official museum website refers to the twin exhibits as un florilège (uhn flor-e-lege), or a gathering of remarkable things. What a lovely word!

IMG_4858America Collects 18th Century French Painting

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Benis soient ceux qui sont capables de voir la beauté

IMG_4818The musée Marmottan Monet, on the edge of the genteel 16th arrondissement of Paris, has just a few special exhibits a year and I often find that I’ve arived either too late or too early for their latest offering. This summer, I’ll arrive on time to see the first show in Paris dedicated to Camille Pissarro in almost four decades. The show is currently on and will continue until July 2, 2017.

A11722.jpgPissarro moved outside of Paris with his family to live more economically and he often painted his modest village and its surroundings. I found a great Pissarro quote, “Benis soient ceux qui sont capables de voir la beauté dans les lieux les plus modestes là où d’autres ne voient rien” which means “Blessed are those who are capable of seeing beauty in the humblest places where others see nothing.” Well, the musée Marmottan Monet is about as far from a humble place as it is possible to get! Pissarro would probably be surprised by all the attention.

IMG_4845Pissarro’s People


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IMG_4925Venice is a city that has always drawn me the same way that Paris does. Until June 25, 2017, you can virtually visit Venice during Carnaval at the musée Cognacq-Jay, a small but delightful museum in the Marais that always has engaging temporary exhibits.

IMG_4926In the 18th century, Venice had become marginal as a military power, but it compensated by becoming the center for celebrations for all of Europe. Through forty works of art, this exhibit brings to life what was going on in Venice based on four themes: music and dancing; opera and theatre; displays of power; and Carnaval’s contributions to Venice.

Visite de NapolÈon Ier ‡ Venise du 28 novembre au 8 dÈcembre 1807: EntrÈe de l'Empereur en gondole sur le Grand Canal- aprËs avoir ÈtÈ reÁu par le patriarche de Venise- le cortËge se rendant au palais des Procurateurs, passe sous l'arc de triompheSérénissime (say-ray-nee-seem) means “serene” when used in a title, such as son Altesse sérénissime, or “his Serene Highness.” It is also the nickname of Venice, alough I can’t imagine a less serene place to be than in Venice during Carnaval!



IMG_4928Venice Coloring Book for Adults

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Au-delà des étoiles

IMG_4642This week, I got the official dates for my summer job in Paris. The plan is to arrive a few days before the set-up week starts so I can get over the weight of jetlag and to visit the south of France for a week once it’s over. This will give me time to take in a few museum exhibitions because once the program starts, days pass more rapidly than the high-speed train I’ll take down south.

IMG_4641First up is Au-delà des étoiles: le paysage mystique de Monet à Kandinsky (owe du-lah days ay-twahl) at the musée d’Orsay. In English, the title is “Beyond the Stars. The Mystical Landscape from Monet to Kandinsky”. The show is already open and if you’ll be in Paris, you can catch it until June 25, 2017. It features works by Symbolist artists who opted for mystery over science in their depictions of landscapes.

Many of the paintings in the exhibit come from my prior “landscape” of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. It brings together works of famous European painters such as Gauguin and Van Gogh as well as some lesser-known artists (from a European perspective) such as American Georgia O’Keeffe and Canadian Emily Carr. The images in the press releases are really beautiful, so I’m very much looking forward to checking it out.

IMG_4643Symbolist Art

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IMG_4680I’ve been following the French election with great interest. On the news, they kept referring to the “Koo Jay” of each party and it took me a while to realize that they were saying QG. This refers to le quartier général, or headquarters of, in this case, the political aspirants. As you probably well know, the choice on May 7 is centrist Emmanuel Macron who founded the En Marche! party about a year ago versus Marine Le Pen of Le Front National.

Each party is going to be putting in a lot of hours in their respective QG between now and next week’s second round of the elections. I’m not crazy about either candidate, but I would prefer the brash young upstart Macron to the anti-immigration, anti-Europe Le Pen. Overall, the candidate I liked best was senior statesman Alain Juppé, but he was knocked out in the primaries. Scandal-ridden François Fillon represented his party instead, but I still think Juppé could have won the whole thing and been a steady president for France. Since I seldom seem to back the winner in any election, don’t ever put money on my picks.

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Bonne lecture!

I wanted to share some good francophile reads with you:

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France, by Caroline Moorehead, is the account of women members of the French Resistance who were caught and sent to concentration camps. Many died in the camps, but those who did survive that torment did so in no small part because of the strength they found in their friendships. The book is meticulously researched, based on both original materials, archives, and interviews with the survivors. You will be deeply moved.

Lovers at The Chameleon Club: Paris, 1932, by Francine Prose, is an intricate work of fiction that is based on many factual events. The story of Lou Villars, a cross-dressing, lesbian race car driver, turned Nazi torturer, is told through what purport to be letters, memoirs, and a biography written by people who were habitués of the Chameleon Club, a Paris night spot for all sorts of people on the fringes of society. IMG_4625The elaborate plot is even stranger for the fact that Lou Villars is based on Violette Morris, who features in a photo by Brassaï, known as “Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932.” Morris/Villars was a guest of Hitler’s at the 1932 Olympics and even disclosed where the Maginot line ended, thus leading to the rapid invasion of France by German forces.

The sense of verisimilitude is heightened by all of the other characters in the story who are based on real people (Brassaï is doubled by an Hungarian photographer, an American novelist is based on Henry Miller). Each person’s contribution to the tale is told in a distinctive “voice.” How could someone go from an Olympic hopeful and an intensely nationalistic French woman to a torturer of her fellow Parisians? Where does evil come from? What is truth and who owns it? It’s an incredibly complex novel, a bit like trying to see a clear reflection in a mirror that has been broken and glued back together. And since Lou’s story is always told be someone else, the questions remain unanswered. It’s a most unusual and cleverly written book.

Bonne lecture! (Bun lek-tuur) means “Happy reading!” Enjoy!

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Cannes de serin

IMG_4527It’s finally spring in New England. That means that the students at my school have swapped pants and coats for short shorts and shorter skirts, putting a lot of leg on display. Cannes de serin (kan duh sare-ahn) is slang for “canary legs”; the expression refers to twiggy little matchstick legs. The bird in the photo above is a sandpiper, rather than a canary, but its jambes do bear rather a strong resemblance to some of the adolescents in my world.

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