Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Exploring the Luxembourg Gardens

Another favorite spot in Paris is the Luxembourg Gardens, named after the famed palace they surround. While the history of the palace may be rather gruesome today the gardens are anything but as they act as the backyard to many Parisians.
The Palace has held the French Parliament since the early 19th century. Completed in 1645 by architect Salomon de Brosse for the mother of Louis XIII, the regent Marie de' Medici, later in the mid 18th century becoming an art museum.  Name it and this palace has hosted the use: private home, art museum, prison, parliament - talk about adaptive reuse!
One of the most famous things in the garden is the Medici Fountain, built elsewhere on the grounds in 1630 but moved closer to the palace in the 1860s when roads were routed through the gardens. It's a popular shady spot on a hot day.
 My favorite view in the gardens may be this statue of Narcissus with the Pantheon over his shoulder.
Nothing is better in nice weather to join all of Paris in a relaxing day spent with a book and/or friends in the sun. All of the lawn furniture is painted a particularly attractive shade of green (to which I must find a match!) and softdrinks, icecream, and wine (naturally) are sold by small kiosks. One can even rent toy boats to race in the round reflecting pool!
Given the signs however I suppose the gardens aren't always as relaxing  (Even the danger signs are beautiful).
While the back facade facing the gardens is the most well known the front face aligning with the Rue de Tournon is really an architectural tour de force.  Also check out the great shopping in the few blocks north of the palace along the Rue de Tournon leading up to the Boulevard St Germain -all of the shops you want to visit inside gorgeous historic hotel particuleurs to ogle including  Astair de Villatte, Bonpoint, Cire Trudon, and most surprisingly the French office and chic shop of David Hicks!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Petit Palais, Paris

Across the street from the famous exhibition hall the Grand Palais sits its more decorative sibling, the Petit Palais.  Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 by architect Charles Girault in the Beaux-arts style the building now houses a magnificent art museum.
We entered the palais on a whim as the day was hot and the ornate entrance was cool and welcoming. The interior was even more exuberant then the exterior and admission was free!
Before touching on 2 interesting exhibits I saw as well as some of the general collection I'll share some pictures of the astounding architecture with you.
 It may be smaller than the Grand Palais but this is not a small building!
 The interior is light filled due to a lovely courtyard which floods every room with natural light.
 Impressive right?
Decorative murals decorate each space.
A lovely view of the Grand Palais across the street through the windows.
The ironwork on the staircases was astounding as were the mosaic floors. 
 And never forget to look up.
 The newel posts are so intricate and unusual.
 The lower level is no less grand.
 Is it a fish of some sort?
 The most impressive space however must be the internal garden courtyard.
 A cafe rings the loggia so everyone has a garden view.
 The main entry into the building is just under that dome.
This may be my favorite garden in Paris. I probably said that already about the Rodin museum, right? choices choices....
 The ceiling of the loggia is also decorated, fear not!
 And of course everything is curved, even the doors!
 Shall we go inside to see some art?
The permanent collection mostly covers art from the time period of the exhibition, 1900. This lovely Pissaro was the same view I passed daily on the way to my apartment. 

I have long been acquainted with this intriguing portrait of Sarah Bernhardt from 1876 and it is within the collection; also note how large this is, nearly life sized!
This painting below by James Tissot was also incredibly large. It helps for museums to be large scale like the Petit Palais to house these enormous artworks!
Another lifesized sculpture..... note the lovely klismos chair.
A fine 18th century decorative arts collection sits alongside the art.
 I love this obelisk clock by Joseph-Marie Level.
One of the exhibits I enjoyed, which has since closed, was full of sketches from the 18th century entitled "From Watteau to David".
My favorite was the sketch above of 2 women in a garden by Claude-Jean-Baptiste Hoin (that's a mouthful of a name!)
Although the Fragonard sketch of an Italian Garden above was a close second.
Sketches and watercolors remain my favorite art genre because of their loose sketchiness; I feel artists are more creative in these quick pieces.
The sketch above was by Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre who was the court painter to king Louis XVI.
Another exhibit right up my alley was on 18th century ecclesiastical art and architecture entitled "Baroque during the enlightenment".
The baroque artworks of the churches of Paris - brilliant!
Many still exist and can be visited.
I never knew the art of the illuminated manuscript continued after the renaissance; Loved the flowers above.
Many of these pieces were restored just for this exhibit.
While these particular exhibits have recently closed hopefully this post gives you the nature of the art within the Petit Palais. Definitely add this museum to your next adventure into the city of light, it will become one of my regular Parisian haunts for sure!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Rodin and roses

One of my favorite museums in Paris is the Musee Rodin housed in the historic Hotel Biron.  Designed in 1732 by architect Jean Aubert (debatedly with help from Jacques Gabriel), the building has been home to the Rodin museum since 1919 and recently undergone a huge renovation.
Now located in central Paris, when built the house was on the outskirts of town. It still feels separated from the city due to the large gardens.
As it turns out early June when I was there is the perfect time to visit as the roses are at their peak. Each day large crowds patiently waited to gain entry.
The grounds are dotted with numerous Rodin works.  This one, "The Three Shades",  reminds me of Beyonce's "single ladies" video!
The ever popular "The Thinker" from 1903 is seen here in front of the Chapel which houses exhibition space and gift shop.
A current exhibit which I really enjoyed were these quotes attributed to Rodin lining the trees in the garden. This photo reads Rodin and food - "I preferred simple dishes such as omelets, stews, and apple tarts.  I enjoyed a good red wine with my meals.  Monet and I had the same wine merchant! In my opinion, the greatest wisdom lay in drinking, eating, sleeping, and loving."
The rear of the house facing the large garden is a quiet spot as it is cut off from the lawn by a large tent.
The pediment and decorations on the rear are more elaborate than the front facade. Perhaps the same decoration was removed from the front of the house by former residents?
 At the rear of the lawn is a large reflecting pond housing yet another Rodin sculpture.
Great views of the adjacent golden dome of Les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried, are to be seen here.
 No one's sculpture is as evocative or sensual as Rodin's work.
 The roses however were as artful as the sculpture. Sadly most were not scented.
 Every color under the rainbow.
 All with lovely neoclassical architecture as the backdrop.
 Can you see why this may be my favorite spot in all of Paris?
 The front porch has this rather odd detail where the stairs cross in front of a basement window; I love quirks like this!
 Once inside the views of the garden are lovely but no longer the focus.
The self-guided tour through the house is the most thoughtful presentation of an artist's works I've seen.One moves through the house with each room focusing on different areas of Rodin's life.
While many of the original mouldings and boiseries had been stripped from the house during the 19th century when it was converted to a girl's school, some have been found and re-instated.
 Seeing the art in surroundings such as these is such a pleasure: no bland white boxes here.
 Rodin's 'The Hand of God' sits in the entrance hall - perhaps one of my favorite pieces.
The grand stair has simple detailing but creates an enormous impression as does the light filled entry hall.
In contrast to the opulent guardrail the handrail is a lovely simple iron rod; Love this treatment in contrasts!
 Looking down into the entry hall.
 Below is 'Pallas with the Parthenon' - Rodin had a sense of humor!
Alongside Rodin's works are those of his friends whom he collected; one instantly recognizes the Renoir below.
Rodin's marble sculpture of the 'centauress' from 1887 almost feels to me as a horse morphing into a woman.
 One forgets that we're in the center of Paris, but on the 2nd floor there are glimpses of the city surrounding the garden.
The parquet floors are lovely. The entire house has been restored but not in an immaculate sense. It feels like the old house it is and I love that.
 Looking into the garden below from the 2nd floor.
Rodin also collected ancient sculpture which he would reference in his work. These ancient heads are mounted in a really artful way.

 Here Rodin playfully added a plaster head to an ancient bronze body.
The Musee Rodin is a must for any visit to Paris, don't miss it! Also while there notice the apartment building directly across from the garden entrance with my favorite iron and glass front door in all of Paris!