I had never been there, so it was something new for me. Little did I suspect two people in my party would become so animated and somewhat insulting. Matt said, “What is this supposed to be–a swamp?” A sacrilege for anyone traveling to see Monet’s “Les Nymphéas” (Waterlilies). Milly then said, “Oh that Picasso. If I had the money, I would buy that painting and burn it! There is no way that is not a Sumi wrestler, not a woman!” We will not even dignify that one!
Now the Musée de l’Orangerie is nothing radical. It is off the Place de la Concorde by the hot dog vendor!. It is a little around about to go, since when you enter the Tuileries from the Place, you must stay right and walk bearing right up a little hill. There is no direct route, then go up the incline and then bear left. It is an old neoclassical building. But there is nothing neoclassical about the works: Impressionist, post-Impressionist and the School of Paris of the early twentieth century. And many of those viewing it, sat in hushed tones as if in awe. I do not think that was Monet’s intention.
I compiled these three shots (sorry they don’t quite match) to give you the scope of the works set up in one oval room. There are two rooms, but this one seemed to be more related with the imagery. If you let your eye go to the far left corner, you can match up the far right in the top photo to get a sense of the last side of the room. This vision Monet was working on was long before Panavision or Cinemascope. It is more like the CircleVision 360 production at Epcot for Canada. Except this is Monet in the early twentieth century. It was said that the museum tried to keep the lighting soft, as Monet wished them to be displayed that way.
Of course, if you are half alive, you probably have seen one version or another of these wonderful paintings. MoMA has one, which over a forty year period I have seen in various settings. Once, they put it in a hallway (below, section plus inserted detail) , so you were forced to view it, as if a billboard in an airport. I started yelling, which led to a funny story, for another time, maybe, but not for here.
In a pre-Pollack spirit, Monet loosened his brushwork so much that imagery became abstracted. It is not unlike how Degas filled in backgrounds in later work. I noticed stitching in some of the paintings, but I am sure that was before the fact. Monet worked on these on site, and it is quite a feat for a man of his years, suffering from cataracts. The scrumble is fresh and the color clean and alive. These works are important to explain Monet, as well as to foresee later works in the twentieth century.
The lower level is a collection of Paul Guillaume (and later, Walter, the widow’s husband’s name). There is some mystery about Guillaume (1891–1934) and his death, which some believe was murder. He had to be one of the most prolific collectors, having befriended Apollinaire, he collected works by Picasso, Matisse, Marie Laurencin, Douanier Rousseau, Modigliani, Soutine and Utrillo. It may look a little goofy, but I will try to keep frames in when I can, or at least a sense of a boundary of one. The Monet’s are displayed very simply and modern. This is no mean feat, and that the collection is together in part is something. Small models, below, allowed you to see what the collection looked like in the home.
The collection’s original owner by both Derain (left) and Modigliani (right).
You walk down stairs and you are immediately in contact with the Impressionists and post. Some people get tired of the Impressionists, but it just depends. They were so prolific, and most lived to ripe old ages, that they produced dozens and dozens of paintings. There are some odd still lifes of Renoir, I saw at several Paris museums. Some familar poses of women, as in the case of Renoir’s “Femme nue dans un paysage” (left), but one always welcomes post-Imp Cezanne and another “Madame Cezanne” (right) or a group of bathers (below).
I realized on this trip, how we know most post-Renaissance artists, especially the Impressionists, by work held by American museums. If something is exceptional, we may know about other works, but much is actually works available in the U.S., so many of the works, like the small Cezanne (La Barque. . .) above are less known. An interesting compositional aspect, when one breaks the image in half with the vertical line of the boat.
It is not uncommon, because the artists are often so prolific. I felt that in Amsterdam, with quite a few of van Gogh’s work at the Van Gogh Museum. His last work, aside from the corn field, which everyone makes such a big deal over, shows a different direction in palette. Artists work, depressed or not, the brain may be on the fritz, but the compulsion to produce does not end. Anyway, that is to say many little gems exist that we may, not being expert, appreciate or understand. La Barque. . . is a good example.
There were not too many Gauguins. I have probably seen more in Boston, than I did in Paris. I was probably in the wrong place. I like him more the older I get. He absorbs other artists, Cezanne, in particular, but he brings himself into his subject matter and the way he frames things, that remains his own. I love the way he uses color and the way he lays down his paint thin. I think his use of shades is quite extraordinary, and he was the painter I referred to when the kids and I were mixing tints and shades. The third grade was fascinated with the richness that you get creating shades. Gauguin using them all over the place.
Three Rosseaus: L’Enfant a la poupee (above, right), La Carriole du Père Junier (above, left) and La Fabrique de chaises à Affortville (directly above, hope this is the right name).
Rosseau would be typical for this. We know him mostly by those few paintings which show jungle landscape, especially the one with a nude woman, The Dream (1910) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dream_%28painting%29 ). Yet Rosseau’s work is more primitive to our sense, nicely done. The scale with his work is always of interest. The little girl is almost Botero-like, but with more attention to hard detail and texture. His landscape has something in common with Grandma Moses, but his drawing is so much better. Grandma Moses is wonderful for giving a sense of the lay of the land, the light, time of year, but her figurative drawing is almost like the worst of Utrillo. Rosseau is better versed at perspective, his buildings remind me of stuff I used to do in my early teens. Or a lot of teens for that matter. I fell in love with La Carriole du Père Junier, as it has the charm of an old photograph and the little show horse on tiptoes (check out the shadows), and the teensy dog in the lower right hand corner!
Derain’s Arlequin et Pierrot, -what could be more French?
Jumping over a few rooms is Derain. Of Les Fauvres, Derain is lesser known in the U.S. Matisse, is always Matisse and a star in his own right. Vlaminck is something else. Marquet and Dufy, in particular the later for that happy color vein. Rouault kept the same type of style, perhaps that we know of him. Braque married Picasso and the conceived of Cubism for a while. Later, Braque broke and moved on to mostly the still life and color/plane effects for the most part of his life. But it was Derain’s work that I kept bumping into in Paris, and I have to say, I kind of like it.
Laurencin’s Portrait de Madame Paul Gaulliaume and Portrait de Mademoiselle Chanel
Perhaps, it is not unusual to see so many Utrillos, yet no Valadons, but at least there were Picassos and his friend, Marie Laurencin’s together, in one show. And I believe, the only women in this showing of works. Of course they are all similar and about the same time. They are fresh and the color is worth looking at. Janene did not care for them too much, perhaps too conservative. I liked them, moodily lit, and were housed together in their own space.
As anyone can see from the separate styles that Picasso was a chameleon, when it comes to themes. There are quite a few Picassos here and in this collection they are wonderful because they are both pre- and post- Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. I don’t know if Picasso felt that was a crossover for him, I know he and Gertrude Stein both felt that her portrait might have been, But as far as teaching art history, that was the point for us. The lovely Femme au peigne is pre- and part of the work of the rose period, when the works were less moody and he began to experiment more with form, rather than representation.
La grande baigneuse is post- and part of that sort of monumental Roman period he experimented with, as did many artists of that period (look at that figure at Rockefeller Center, or anything done out of the 1930s including some of the base reliefs done in the Moderne. Why this painting in particular drove Milly nuts is beyond me! It was funny, considering this was not a portrait of Dora Maar, who often did not fare well with this artist. It is one of the few paintings of Picasso where we get a sense of flesh, and the face is lovely. I am surprised there was no protest over the male nude, nearby, who is so la la la blasé!
Matisse and Picasso intertwine so well together. So the Femme au tambourn works so well. A few years ago in 2003, MoMA relocated for that year period in Sunnyside in Queens, did a show of the two. Many pieces were shown, quite a few still lifes not well known of Matisse were there. But you saw the interrelationship, and especially as in this work, the use of pattern and those pinky flesh tones distinctly Matisse, with the use of hard edge and plane, more formal with Picasso. Both drew like whizzes. And Picasso could use that fine contour, to make the most beautiful faces and bodies. Like he does here. If you can get to Málaga, in Spain, there are some wonderful Picassos in the museum of his namesake (but no photos, as is prevalent in Spain!).
There are quite a few Soutines, unfortunately they shot poorly. He uses red so much, he even did a frame red and blue or gold like primitives did. The other painter, and I have saved him for last is Utrillo. The French seem to take a liking for putting glass over their oil paintings. It makes shooting hard, or impossible. The wonderful Englishwoman, looks kind of like a 30s Grand Hotel Joan Crawford. Which is not to diminish either in any way.
Utrillo: La Maison de Berlioz (above, top), La Maison Bernot (directly above) and Église Saint-Pierre (below)
When I was a kid, Utrillo was a big deal. I have read, he was such a wreck in the end, they believe his wife may have finished some of his paintings. Utrillo seems the successor to the kind of white on light that made Sisley’s snow scenes so subtle and unusual. That scrubbed look of paint on paint is interesting, and I understand he bought photos from Atget, to recreate perspective. These are things I have read, people often write things and you don’t know if they are always true.
There were quite a few Utrillos, and some I have never seen reproductions, that I can recall. La Maison Bernot is sort of a Utrillo booty call, as the days of the bustle would have been long gone! Église Saint-Pierre is typical as it provides a Parisian street, that grayness he loves and his own sense of scale. It is a beautiful design, especially the way the windows are done. There is a small amount of foliage, enough to counterpoint the buildings and the sky. It should have been flat, but Utrillo with his use of value and color in the walls, gives it a beautiful sense of space, with the merest use of pushing and pulling.
The collection is great for part of a day. http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/
Now remember to go. At the Place de Concorde, turn into the Tuileries so face the direction of the Louvre. Ask someone. Walk past this food stand, the ice cream cone was there on Sunday, but not Monday. And if you turn around you will see this sight will be behind you (photo, below)! There are bathrooms on the right, right past the gate. Bear right, as I have said, and go up the incline in the direction you came in! Have a wonderful time.
By the way, if you have trouble with French or any language (being almost illiterate even in my native language), google SDL translation
and you can paste in copy and get the translation for free! –How do you think I come up with stuff?