A FRIEND! Ron met and got to know Karl Clark this last fall in a class Ron facilitated, “The Artist's Way.” Karl returned to Paris where he has lived for the past 20 years with his Parisian wife. He gave Ron’s group an open invitation if they should ever come to Paris to look him up – and I did. We emailed each other before the trip and he met us the first morning of our Paris visit.
It was WONDERFUL to meet someone the morning of our first day in Paris that spoke English – AND grew up in Bakersfield. Karl was charming and incredibly hospitable – showing us how to use the metro and taking us around Paris, on a boat ride on the Seine, and treating us to a lunch outdoors in beautiful weather. Karl gave me a wonderful introduction to Paris – releasing some of my tension and fears about travel. Seeing a friendly face who knew the ropes and who was in touch with us throughout the week , was incredibly helpful. THANK YOU KARL!
I bless Karl for making a mistake on the Metro. We had to get off and on again I think because we passed our stop. If someone who lived here for 20 years could goof up – then I had permission to goof up with grace as well. THANK YOU KARL.
Purchasing museum pass/ Metro tickets
This was done fairly easily. We bought a 3 day Metro pass and 4 day Museum pass from the travel store at the end of the street from our hotel.
Finding the museum
1. Locate the place on the map
2. Locate the Metro lines that led to the place
Walking through a museum
Usually this meant showing your museum pass, having your bags checked, picking up a map/brochure/guide and deciding on whether to get an audio tour or just walk through. I usually got an audio tour – Julie usually walked through
Sometimes walking through meant trying to follow a map (Louvre) which could be daunting. Louvre was daunting.
Walking through meant looking at an artifact, sculpture, painting – deciding if you liked it, what you liked about it, and reading or listening to someone’s description. Only the most important items were described. In a room of 50 objects in the Louvre, maybe only 5 objects were described. Sometimes the audio would give you a general description of the room you were entering – but often I was so disoriented and looking around for objects that listening to the guide (at the Louvre) was minimally appreciated.
Experiencing the art, the presentation
Two things allow one to appreciate art or a museum piece. Knowledge and a suspension of time to absorb and enjoy. I wish I could say that experiencing the art was incredible. My enjoyment of the art pieces was affected by the most banal thoughts: Finding the object, being hungry, thirsty, needing to go to the bathroom, what time was it? and when did I meet Julie? Something of my appreciation was an act, or going through the motions. I would go to a piece of art – look at it – and decide, “Do I like this?” mostly my head was filled with too much business to become timeless and enjoy.
However, with all those distractions going on - there was some art and some museum pieces that held me and glistened in my heart and eyes.
There was a sculpture in Orsay which I loved. The Dance. It was a group of women and children I think, in motion – with such expressions of joy on their faces that you could not help but smile. This sculpture captured my attention. Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux – La Danse 1808
Paris - Musée d'Orsay: Jean Baptiste Carpeaux's La Danse
Originally uploaded by wallyg
There were two pieces of impressionistic art that caught my attention – different artists but similar scenes. At night in the park lit up by street lights. The picture was quiet, empty of people, and full of the peace and wonder of evening. It felt safe and like a sanctuary. I loved these pictures.
A Park at Night, circa 1892-95 by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai
Nocturne Dans Le Parc Royal, Brussels by William Degouve De Nuncques
William Degouve de Nuncques - Nocturne in the Parc Royal, Brussels
Originally uploaded by naezdok
THE LOUVRE was a contest. Could I find what I wanted to find and actually get there? Four levels, each which comprised of several levels themselves, with continuous twists and turns. It was SO EASY TO GET LOST. Once you were in the Egyptian section – you might not ever get out. The key word to my experience in The Louvre was, LOST! My goal at the Louvre became not so much to enjoy art – but to see if I could actually go where I wanted to go when I wanted to get there. I met Julie for lunch only 30 minutes after the appointed time. VICTORY! I found Napoleon III apartment on the 3rd floor and got back in time to meet Julie: VICTORY! I think people who are used to video games and finding treasures in incredibly complex mazes would be more comfortable at the Louvre. Julie and I both spent a great deal of time figuring how to get out of a place. Seriously.
I enjoyed the Egyptian part the most. To see all the artifacts and sculptures and mummified bodies was fascinating. I kept thinking as I walked through that Moses, and even Joseph and Mary had experienced this Egypt. I felt more in touch with the incredible determination to produce something beautiful and practical. The patience and timelessness that had to be present in doing such work. I envy that ability to set aside everything else except eating and sleeping to create.
Going to the museums served to create new interest and desire to learn more. Three dimensional history was a catalyst to know more.
Did opulence and gold engender the same enthusiasm in design that a completely different style (like simple cottage style) does in others? Was there a sense satisfaction, peace, excitement? Or was it more a statement - "I spent a lot of money, I have a lot of power?" This simple American is unimpressed.
Smile baby, SMILE!
The Victory is considered one of the great surviving masterpieces of Greek sculpture from the Hellenistic period, despite the fact that the figure is significantly damaged, missing its head and outstretched arms. By an unknown artist (presumably Rhodian in origin), the sculpture is thought to date from the period 220 BC - 190 BC (though some scholars date it as early as 250 BC or as late as 180 BC).
This winged sculpture captured my attention. Sitting on the stairs near her feet - I sensed greatness and beauty.
The trip. This was our first trip outside of Paris on Saturday. The night before Julie plotted out our destination and the Metro lines and RER train that we would use to get there. Thank you Julie! We got up, ate breakfast, and were off!
The weather: The weather was cloudy and somewhat cold. VERY cold if you were caught in the wind (which happened at the top of the hill in the garden). There was also some rain. Weather affected our stay. We did not stay around because we were cold.
AUDIO GUIDE: This was the ONE time that the audio guides (Free this time) were truly helpful. It was a room by room guide and all we had to do was put in the number and listen. The actual information was listened to with mild interest that sometimes leaned to non-interest. Julie and I sometimes pushed on before the audio was finished.
The Castle: Immense. Art and creativity mixed in with opulence and greed and politics, mixed in with a theology of divine right rule. I wonder , in the years to come, when they walk through our gardens and buildings what will be obvious to them about our time and our beliefs. I also wonder – how much does right and wrong interfere with art? And does it? Did artists get lost in their creative productions – or were they resentful or angry at having to produce something? What about the craftsman who did the gold carved molding around the walls in the King’s bedroom? Did he feel passionate and blessed by God? Or did he feel enslaved? Or stressed at pleasing the king? I don’t think art cares much about politics. So many artists at so many levels during this time. Do we have artists like that? I don’t think so. We have become much more simplistic – puritan.
The Garden: Incredibly huge – geometric, beautiful with simple lines. I couldn’t imagine the use of the gardens. How were these gardens used on such an immense level? Did the queen have her enclave that went to a certain part of the garden (well hidden from other parts) to party with her friends? I know so little about this life of King’s Gardens and their purpose and use. I want to know more.
King Luis XIV: This man I learned a little bit – and I want to know more. He seemed intelligent and driven and incredibly educated. I learned a little bit about his history – but paragraph descriptions were hardly sufficient. I want to k now more about this man and his rule.
I think we went to Rodin on our 3rd day with the Museum Pass. That would have been Friday. The day was beautiful. We spent lots of time in the garden – enjoying the blue skies and the sunshine more than the art. It seemed odd to see so many of sculptures in beautiful garden about people in misery. Sculptures of 5 men and their expressions just before they were hung. It was interesting to see the different expressions of determination or despair on their faces. The Inferno – was one of the major pieces – with individual pieces concentrated on throughout the garden.
I wondered about “The Thinker” – So objective, so withdrawn from scenes of misery. What would you be so calmly thinking about? “The Gates of Hell was based on Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy) of Dante Alighieri, with each statue representing one of the main characters. The Thinker was originally meant to depict Dante in front of the Gates of Hell, pondering his poem. In the final sculpture, a miniature sits atop the tympanon, pondering the hellish fate of those beneath him. The Thinker was exhibited in its original size (71.5cm) in Copenhagen in 1888.” My other question about “The Gates of Hell” - WHY WERE THERE CHILDREN and BABIES in the sculpture?
The most beautiful piece that I remember is a sculpture of two hands – which Rodin saw as nature’s cathedral. There is another piece of art the caught my attention and I cannot find it in the catalog of pictures. It was a bust of a woman using different mediums, different colors of clay and even newspaper. I was intrigued. If I find it I will include the picture.