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Musing at Musees

We Re-Engage With Art

Last time we went to Paris I felt slightly embarassed when I returned and admitted we hadn't been to The Louvre.

We'd only visited one art gallery, the Musee Rodin. But it had been a quite deliberate decision. The galleries take time, of which we had only limited amounts. And there are plenty of absolutely iconic places in Paris that aren't the keepers of massive art collections. So we visited the Eiffel Tower, The Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame Cathedral, Champs Elysees, etc etc.

BTW the Musee Rodin has a collection of Rodin's brass sculptures in beautiful garden surroundings and we fell in love with it! It was so fantastic, it was on our wishlist to return there this time. It holds Rodin's famous sculpture The Thinker, the amazing Gates of Hell, and the evocative Burghers of Calais, amongst other beautiful pieces! Sadly our return will have to wait for our NEXT TRIP - oh yes there'll be another visit to Paris! No Question! Here's some photos from the Rodin Sculpture Garden on our last trip.

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But with 15 days scheduled in Paris this time, I/we had a big wishlist of things we wanted to see.

Amongst them were the significant galleries or Musees. Of course top of the list was the Louvre, and the Musee d'Orsay, followed by the Musee de l'Orangerie and the Musee Marmottan. As we explored Montmartre, we also discovered the Espace Dali, which Phil Owen the Dali fan, went and explored.

I so admire my beloved husband, he is not an avid art fan by any means, just like he's not a Christian and not "into" Churches. But this gorgeous boy explored with me every one of these galleries and Churches I've waited so many years to see. And he either thoroughly enjoyed them or, at the very least, found things he learned and was intrigued by in every setting! He's brilliant. But history is fascinating, and that's what we've spent these weeks exploring.

Like the Uffizi in Florence, The Louvre has something like 35,000 objets d'art in their collection and only a portion is on show, so seeing everything is IMPOSSIBLE!! You could spend a week there and still only see a small percentage! And again like our first visit to the Uffizi, we decided to do a tour to capture the must-sees in a doable-sized trek.

To bring you up to speed: By the time I had arrived in Paris, the fall in Bordeaux had caused a large fluid-filled cyst in my knee. My kneecap was floating on top of this fluid and when I went to straighten my leg, my kneecap would be out of position and would have to grind back into place! Quite excruciating! In the time it takes to pop back into place, and you are transferring your weight onto that leg, your knee collapses under you! So I was walking hobbling with a walking stick. Sadly, I had to be really practical about what I could achieve without missing out all together! I became very fond of my 1kg packs of peas kept in the freezer in our apartment as they were what would get me through each day. We'd head out for a while then head home for me to ice my knee and get it working again before our next foray into Paris.

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So a 3 hour tour of the Louvre was booked. We were part of a group of 6 with a guide so you skip the queue and also get priority and the assistance (to some extent) of the attendants. We saw some beautiful pieces of Greek and Roman sculpture, some amazing and famous paintings, some fascinating objects of French royal history, and of course the Mona Lisa! We learned heaps and it was definitely worth the price of the tour.

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Even more so, when my guide sent the other 5 off to join the crowd pushing their way towards the Mona Lisa and I got taken to the guard at the side. With an explanation of my disability and a pointing to my stick, the guard nods and steps back and suddenly I am walking and standing, not once but twice, in front of the crowd and in front of the barrier face to face with the Mona Lisa. I suddenly decided there were definite advantages to falling over and stuffing up your knee! I was grinning from ear to ear. If you hadn't ever heard, the Mona Lisa is actually quite small (77 cm × 53 cm = 30 in × 21 in) and predictably draws a massive crowd, so getting up close and personal was a fantastic opportunity.

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Despite my desire to return and see other things at the Louvre, my overall sense was that I had enjoyed the works in the Uffizi more than those I saw in the Louvre. But then again I saw so little it's a hard call!

Our first foray into the galleries had been a few days after our arrival and we turned up at the Tuileries Gardens on a Sunday afternoon at 2 pm with the intention of going to the Musee de l'Orangerie. The queue was approximately 2 hours long! After failing to buy tickets online on the spot, we left the queue (feeling somewhat chastenedand silly) and hopped a bus out to the Musee Marmottan which was about 20 mins ride out of Central Paris. No queues here, and what's more I was at the place I most wanted to see. The Marmottan is primarily devoted to Monet's work. And delightfully it also contained some of the works of a lesser-known female Impressionist Berthe Morisot, on whose work I have had a crush for a long time. Talk about happy as a pig in shit, even if I did have to lug the dodgy floppy knee up and down countless stairs to see them!

By the time we returned to l'Orangerie we had learned our lesson and booked and collected our tickets elsewhere! Apart from the temporary exhibition they were holding of Frida Kahlo (she of the mono-brow!), L'Orangerie is most famous for it's exhibition of Monet's enormous elliptically shaped Nymphaea or Water Lilies. These are in 2 massive purpose-built rooms and the paintings which were painted OUTSIDE, are enormous and take up the whole walls of these two rooms. 3 paintings in 1 room and 4 in the other. This photo and article from the Guardian might give you some idea of the immensity of what I'm talking about! http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/may/03/arts.france| (< ERROR: the link title is too long!)

We just sat there speechless looking at these immense and exquisite works, awestruck by Monet's magic.

But we'd already seen his Magic at work when we had been to the Musee d'Orsay which is devoted entirely to works of all kinds of art from the period between the mid-19th century and about 1920. So it includes a lot of Impressionist works as the Impressionists were predominantly a late 19th century phenomenon in art. It is all housed in a beautiful old railway station built at the turn of the 20th century, so quite young by a lot of Paris standards! Again we had a tour, and again saw the absolute highlights! But again, I MUST go back so I can see so much more!!!! (God I adore Paris!!!) I could happily spend a whole day there. I carefully arranged for this visit to be on my birthday as I knew I was going to just LOVE the experience and I did! It was a wonderful way to spend my birthday surrounded by art from my most favoured era.

Posted by OwenGadflies 23:05 Archived in France Tagged art paris france sculpture louvre monet rodin mona_lisa musee_d'orsay musee_marmottan impressionists l'orangerie

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