More Bucket List Adventures!
For many years I'd yearned to visit the Musee D'Orsay in Paris as I'd heard it had a few Impressionist works, particularly those of Mr Van Gogh (have I mentioned I quite like his work...?). Last year I planned a special wedding anniversary trip to the French Capital city - the instruction from hubby was "to go wherever I wanted, this holiday is just for you". Music to a girl's ear, or sunshine to an artist's eye, perhaps.
I'd planned a day at the Louvre (guide books warned it was rather large), a visit to the Musee D'Orsay, and some gentle roaming around the side streets, exploring and soaking up the true essence of the popular tourist destination (we'd spent a day here before with the kids some years back, doing all the 'touristy bits', so didn't need to go through all that again). Of course, much eating of fine patisserie was also on the itinerary. I'd never had an Opera cake and was planning to fix that: when in Rome, so to speak...
I'd booked the tickets in advance to 'jump' the queues... Although this seemed like a good idea at the time, it had also occurred to hundreds of other people, making the advanced ticket queue longer than the pay-on-the-day queue...go figure, as they say. Nonetheless it moved along fairly quickly and once through security we picked up the map and headed up many stairs to reach the Impressionist wing before the crowds started building.
I don't know what I was expecting: maybe a few large rooms, a bit like the National Gallery in London, full of paintings. What I clearly hadn't anticipated was the enormity of the gallery (a former grand railway station), the amount of floors, and, just in the Impressionism gallery alone, what felt like yards and yards of rooms dedicated to the history of Impressionism, post-Impressionism and everything leading up to the movement. It just kept going. And I was in awe; amazement almost to the point of being so overwhelmed I nearly had to sit down and have a cafe creme. Fortunately Earl Grey is also available so I recovered quite quickly.
Throughout these rooms I revisited previously-seen paintings when on loan to other exhibitions, including Van Gogh and Monet. I also discovered artists I'd not heard of but were drawn to, such as Paul Signac and Maximilien Luce. I saw the originals of artwork that I'd only seen in books, by Seurat, Renoir, Pissaro and Manet. Renoir caught my attention - I'd never really noticed his work before, but in the 'flesh' it is quite captivating, and I can't even describe how. Perhaps it had something to do with the sheer dimensions, or the way he used light, or how he created detail, drawing your eye in to the areas he wanted you to focus - especially the eyes. Look at the eyes. I also saw Van Gogh paintings I didn't know existed, some painted with the lightest of colour and gentlest of hand, and even saw the painting 'Church at Auvers' featured in the Doctor Who episode where Vincent gets caught up with the Doctor and some strange alien-like creature, and ends up including it in the church window in his painting...I checked the original while in the museum and it's definitely not there, which means Doctor Who might not be a real person...
Exploring the rest of the museum we discovered a special exhibition of 'Degas at the Opera', featuring his numerous studies of ballet dancers. Again, the quantity of work collected into one exhibition was astounding and it revealed so much more than just some dancers in tutus. I don't think I knew that Degas was also a skilled sculptor, and some of his pieces were included, such as Tiny Dancer. Elegant, simple and captivating.
Further into the museum, there was a whole wing dedicated to Art Nouveau - my other art passion - full of furniture and interior design from that era. Indulgent gorgeousness. On one of the upper floors a balcony surrounds the interior with a gallery of large sculptures and three-dimensional creations, including a sculpture by Rodin...I'd heard of him, and now I came face to face with his work.
It was a wholly uplifting day and was definitely the highlight of the trip (and celebrating 15 years of marriage too, of course...). I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone visiting Paris - even if they aren't particularly 'into' art. The building itself is a marvel of late 1800's architecture and design.
As for the Louvre...they're right, it is rather large. It has a significant amount of history in itself which I won't bore you with now, feel free to investigate it at your own leisure. But it does have something for everyone - if you go, perhaps do your research in advance, be picky about what you really want to see, and head there first. My highlights here included the actual architecture of the whole site, the wide range of art from all centuries, cultures and parts of the globe, and, of course, the Mona Lisa (not so much a bucket list item, but another 'when in Rome...' tick!). However, they had moved the painting while preparing for a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition (which opened the following week, unfortunately for us), and the redirection signs were not very helpful...I think we must have passed the entrance to the temporary gallery at least 3 times before working it out! As the painting is much smaller than people expect, it was definitely a case of, blink and you'll miss it!
Tucked away in the far end of the Gardens of the Louvre, in an unassuming corner, is a Reclining Figure by the marvellous Henry Moore - another favourite artist of mine. This trip kept getting better and better with surprises and enjoyment around every corner. And, in fact, around a few more corners we stumbled upon a lovely little cafe selling Opera cake. Well, when in Rome, and all that...!