Saturday, February 7, 2009

During my early morning walk I noticed the sun battling the clouds and by mid-morning the clouds reigned supreme, with snow flurries everywhere. Not in the forecast, but in the air. Still, no matter the weather, the street scene and colorful window displays of fruits and flowers continue to amaze. Last week the Herald Tribune carried an obituary of Dina Vierny, a woman who had been for most of her early life the muse of sculptor Aristides Maillol. As a young woman she had attracted the eye of the old sculptor and for many, many years she was his subject, of his oils, of his pencil sketches, but principally, and majestically, of his sculpture. The Musee Maillol really exists as a venue where much of his work may be seen. It is a grand place to visit. On this snowy Saturday, the coziness of a museum appealed to me and the works of Maillol can ameliorate the chill nicely. It seems to me that most figures created by sculptors are a tad fleshy, Giacometti’s works excepted. It is possible, therefore, to compare three-dimensional works by one artist with those of another. Maillol meets Rodin, the master. The former holds up nicely in my opinion. Though the mediums are the same, the surface treatment is different, with Maillol producing a different sheen and dimension than Rodin. They are smoother, slicker. I like them a lot and clearly they are on the radar of very many folks. I beat the crowd to this beautiful old town house where Maillol’s works are displayed on three floors. Lovingly so, I would note, as it is actually the home of Dian Vierny and Maillol shares space here with many of her favorite 20th century artists. In addition to a nice collection of some of Matisse’s head shots done with China ink, the museum also presents rotating exhibits of paintings by contemporary artists. Today, the temporary exhibit rooms were filled with works by Russians, mostly abstract artists. Good material. It takes a full hour, not much more, to see all the works displayed here. The front door serves as entry and exit and I was amazed to see how many people were queued as I departed. Popular guy, Maillol; good artist. Because of the inclement weather I had taken the Metro to Musee Maillol, but the precipitation had stopped as I stepped outside after my visit, so I set out for home on foot. I stopped for break at Cafe Flore, one of the “dueling cafes”—the other being Deux Magots—along Boulevard St-Germain. They are just across the way from Brasserie Lipp, which would be my choice of the three. I took a picture for my archives. Before returning to the apartment, I replenished my dwindling supply of groceries and wine, and was set.
Then I got a call from an old friend from Lexington, and that rewrote the night. Winnie Madden grew up in Fayette County and now lives in Paris in the 5th arrondissement, otherwise know as the Latin Quarter. Both she and her husband Philippe are architects here. Winnie, whom I had seen in Kentucky in August, knew of my Paris plans, and had made a note to be sure and give me a ring. It was a good note. She suggested we find a time for dinner. “How about tonight?” “Sounds good to me.” The Latin Quarter is close to the Ile, so we both walked from our respective places and met at a little cafe just at the edge of this island. Lots to talk about, many friends in common, good conversation across the board. Winnie had made reservations at a favorite spot of hers, Restaurant Paul, on the Ile de la Cite and just a short walk away. It was great to catch up. Philippe, off to a meeting and therefore unable to join us, taught at the University of Kentucky in the mid-1990s. He is writing a book concerning the Shakers and their unique architecture, particularly with reference to furniture design. Time slips by when the conversation is rich, and with Winnie that is always a given. “If not before the Paris journey ends, then for sure next August in Lexington.” It is always the promise of tomorrow that makes today end so nicely.

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