I am grateful for a wonderful, adventurous year, and the most exciting event has been my recent trip to France: Paris and the Dordogne River region.
As many, I know much about individual French artists, but really have never studied French culture and history. I was determined to seek out some lesser known destinations and was rewarded! What a symphony of color and harmony! A mix of contemporary, traditional and ancient art.
First thing: the French simply do not do ugly. Every water faucet, stairwell, door, lunch menu is created with beauty in mind. The more I learn about the French, the more I realize their way of life embraces taking more time to enjoy beauty. Almost French, by Sarah Turnbull, sensitively and humorously describes her experiences with her Parisian husband. She has experiences and grown to appreciate the philosophical differences between the French and her native Australians. One anecdote explains much: her husband was shocked that she slipped out to the patisserie in her “pantalones de jogging.” It was not respectful to the baker!
On my third morning in Paris, I took an early morning walk. Having an (unnatural) difficulty with directions (north, south, east, west) in the deep canyonlike streets, I headed east toward the Pink Parisian sunrise. Map and phone in hand, I set out toward Raspail Boulevard. Le Bon Marché, elegant historic department store, was not open, but through the large windows, I saw employees scurrying to prepare artful counters. Donned in bright green neon vests, the green cleaners were sweeping after water had spurted from ducts in the curbs to clean the gutters. Here’s a link to an informative article about this phenomenon: https://parisianfields.com/2012/03/11/a-most-unusual-water-system/
So many delights: shop windows, markets, a Fabriano paper/calligraphy shop above), all before 7 am!
I barely scratched the surface of Paris and Dordogne region art, and yet, I took in so much!
Paris highlights included:
Post-Impressionists at the Musée d'Orsay
Mary Cassatt at the Jacquemart-Andre
Musée Picasso-of course, not French.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent, designer
Contemporary galleries at
The Orangerie Jardin du Luxembourg
Galleries on Rue de Seine
Galleries at the Place des Vosges
Various art galleries near Sarlat-la-Canéda and Domme
And OLD art –talking caves….and the oldest known paintings.
Below: Art Nouveau door on closed shop, chamber concert at Saint-Chapelle, "After the Bath" by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, paintings by Hans Bouman at the Orangerie at the Jardin du Luxembourg, Musee Rodin, Seine from the Île de la Cité, (3 from Sarlat) painter sculptor Véronique Guinard, painter Yan Samson, and painter Anna Doumler.
What is my take away?
In my youth, I almost overdosed on the Impressionism. Since then, I purposely studied many other art forms. However, I am incredibly drawn to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. I saw more paintings at the Musée d'Orsay than I have ever seen in one spot by of two of my favorites, Pierre Bonnard and Toulouse Lautrec, and much more.
Blue is a powerful color—and the blue skies, teal rivers, dark cool gray stone buildings, and white limestone canyons definitely suggest a color scheme.
More appreciation for certain artists artists
We know there is always more to learn. My background knowledge of sculptor, August Rodin, is scant and I was mesmerized by the extensive collection at his home-now Musée Rodin. I have had a yearning to take a sculpture class (took only one semester in college) or experiment with 3d projects.
I knew more about American born Mary Cassatt, but the extensive exhibit at the elegant Musée Jacquemart-André awakened new desires to paint people and skin tones.
New contemporary artists
Painters in various regions have different approaches and outlooks. The cross-pollination of ideas is healthy! I enjoyed talking to both urban and rural artists about their work and inspirations. (see photos above)
I traveled for over 3 weeks alone to a land where I do not speak the language. A bit crazy, and most wonderful. I made every attempt to greet people in French and to say thank you and goodbye. I was aided by many, many willing, friendly, gracious English speakers, thank goodness! Texting, social media and email offer a lifeline to family and friends, but I most of the time, I rarely heard spoken English. Museums provided taped tours in English, thankfully! There were a few lonely moments, but, frankly, I know God is with me wherever I go, and I was granted many travel blessings.
As a people person at heart, today I relish my time alone. Artists need time to view art, allow it to seep into you, to imagine the directions for your own art-making and just to be still. Travel alone provides opportunity for this important personal tranquility in the midst of the busiest surroundings.
And don’t get me started about food! Fresh, delicious, artfully created, unique and basically not terribly expensive. Yet, I cooked about half of the time with fresh ingredients.
Time to slow down. The average wait time for a server at a café in France (so says one report) is 17 minutes. Just relax, get out your sketchpad or diary! Oh yes, I was sketching endlessly. Enjoy.
As I posted recently: Travel Note:
I am very grateful I was able to travel this summer, and in sharing, I hope to encourage others. Sometimes – it’s not how grand the trip is, but in pursuing a dream or short vision. The planning and studying are almost - almost - as fun. I learned so much: confirmation that people are people everywhere and most I met were wonderful!
I know my art will be affected. Just watch.
Note: The last 15 months have challenged us! This month I encourage you to learn from the isolation and I wish you a cautious, but joyous June reopening!
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