Thursday, January 15, 2009
Paris awakens slowly. In my building, built circa 1650, there are no sounds to jar me from sleep. On the Ile, there is very little activity other than the street cleaners on some mornings, and even they don’t seem to talk to one another. And there is no dawn until between 7:30 and 8:00. Maybe that explains my late sleep sometimes. Not so this morning. I was up and out at 7:00 for a brisk walk in the dark along Boulevard St-Germain. At this hour, only the cars provided any movement, any light. How few pedestrians, I noted, on this, one of the busiest streets in Paris from mid-morning to late evening.
In late morning I decided to visit Musee d’Orsay, an old train station which fell into disuse during World War II and lay essentially idle until the mid-1980s, when it was reborn into a magnificent edifice to house the extensive collection of art from the years 1848-1914 which had been scattered throughout the Louvre. This period, of course, includes the era of Impressionism and all of those name brands—Monet, Renoir and the gang—are here. But it importantly includes great works from the period leading to Impressionism and extends to Post-Impressionism as well. And as dazzling as those Impressionists are (were) I have to say that I thought I would not be able to quit looking at the absolutely spectacular work by Rosa Bonheur titled Labourage Nivernais, an enormous and gorgeous depiction of animals plowing in the French countryside. And right across the hall is Manet’s delicious Le Dejeuner des Herbe, which rocked 19th century Parisians with its depiction of a voluptuous nude having a bit of lunch with two fully-clothed gentlemen. In a special exhibit alongside this masterpiece are about 15 or so versions of the same painting by none other than Picasso and it makes for a really wonderful two rooms. Odd that I would be moved by these pieces, plus some marvelous little Van Goghs, more than all the rest. I will go back and recheck my senses, but I definitely will make a point of seeing those wonderful beasts plowing still again. And maybe again and again.
The restored building which houses all these art treasures is in many ways the star of the show, outshining everything else. How a cavernous space such as this can be at once so massive and yet so intimate is just amazing and must be seen to feel its power. Quite a spot.
So where the Louvre ends the Orsay picks up. And where that ends the Pompidou Centre begins. Another good day lies ahead.
If exercise is good for the soul then today was one of the most soulful days ever for me. Counting the 40 minute morning walk, plus the 40 minute trek to the museum, then a hour afterwards along the Boulevard Montparnasse to return to the Mouffetard market for some roast chicken from the spit, then another 30 minutes home . . . I am in for the night.