When a French writer on my home exchange network approached me for a swap with my live-in atelier in Amsterdam I didn’t hesitate. Her place on Rue de l’Université close to the Seine and the Grand Palais was on the 4th floor without a lift but it didn’t matter, we had our own place for a week in Paris and it felt as if we danced up and down the long, spiraling staircase. The apartment itself was small and charming, perfect for our needs. We quickly found the supermarket and a fantastic bakery on Rue Saint Dominque which was just around the corner and parallel to our new digs. After we got ourselves oriented I plotted the routes to the four exhibitions I had purchased tickets for and at least three others we wanted to see as well if time permitted, so our agenda was full.
The second morning of our stay I arose early and was struck by the image of our street in quiet meditation below, the lights of Boutique Petrossian, THE place to purchase caviar in town glowed gently in the stunning silence of this vibrant city at rest. I quickly grabbed my i-pad and made a painting of the scene below.
Our first museum lay just across the bridge, the Grand Palais. There we were treated to a large scale and very crowded exhibition of the paintings (and one sculpture!) of the great Spanish painter Domenikos Theotokopoulos, better known as El Greco (The Greek). Ever since my visit to Toledo in 1984 I was enamored with this artist. After his education in icon painting in Crete he studied in Rome with Titiaan. He was exceptional in his time in that his solid training as a figurative painter did not restrict him from experimenting with form, light and color. I was slightly disappointed in the selection until I arrived at the end where two of his large masterpieces were displayed.
Whenever Lili and I are in Paris we make certain to visit the small and exquisite Zadkine Museum near the Jardin du Luxembourg. Here was the home and workshop of this Russian sculptor. With it’s garden and outdoor sculpture it is a unique experience to view his art in very intimate surroundings. The permanent collection was combined with an exhibition of artists using nature forms as a response to Zadkine’s work.
Luckily we had the time to walk to Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, a favorite of ours and now just a stones throw away from our apartment. We hadn’t been in some years but we were once again amazed by this incredibly rich collection of the arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Not only the content and quality of the collection but also the design of the building and the creatively varied presentation of the pieces keeps you constantly engaged.
Another Museum we try not to miss is Musée Jacquemart-Andre, a private home and collection on Blvd. Haussmann in the heart of Paris. It is the private collection of Nélie Jacquemart, a society painter and her husband Édouard André a member of a wealthy Parisian banking family. The couple travelled every year to Italy and amassed one of the largest collections of Italian art in France. Among the masterpieces are works by Bellini, Uccello, Rembrandt, van Dyck, Hals, Tiepolo, Chardin and Botticelli to name just a few. They combine this impressive collection with ongoing shows throughout the year. At the moment paintings and watercolors of Turner are on view until March 13th.
Due to the transport strike we had to cover long distances with the help of an Uber. Towards the end of our stay a friendly driver deposited us near a café at the corner of Rue Saint-Jacques and the Seine. We thought we were prepared when we rounded the café and were confronted with the heartbreaking spectacle of the ruined carcass of the Notre Dame Cathedral. We were not, it was heart wrenching to see. Devastating. A few days earlier at the Cité de l’architecture et du Patrimoine (City museum of architecture and monumental sculpture) there was a very informative exhibition of the fire and ongoing restoration of the cathedral. A piece that fascinated me was the copper rooster that had stood atop the wooden spire from 1859 that tumbled to earth during the horrific blaze. Incredibly the rooster was found by a passersby on the street and handed over to the city. It was displayed as it was found.
I would strongly recommend visiting this perhaps not so well known Paris museum. We were in the neighborhood on a Monday when all other museums were closed and were highly rewarded.