Enfin, Paris!: C’est gratuit. Freebies 1!

Paris is all that, and yeah, it can be expensive. But there are a lot of freebies and two of the best of them are two art museums, that Rick Steves and everyone else passed on. One is absolutely beautiful, the other is curious.

Le Petit Palais

“Built for the Universal Exhibition in 1900 to Charles Girault’s designs, the Petit Palais now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris (City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts). Arranged around an octi-circular courtyard and garden, the palace is similar to the nearby Grand Palais. Its ionic columns, grand porch and dome echo those of the Invalides across the river.”


This sort of boobs and gold rococo entrance as only the French can do it. I was struck by all the gold (this before Versailles-yipes!!!). Lots of fine things to see, some more craft than fine art, but who’s complaining?


Initially, the courtyard is wonderful (directly above), and a few people sat outside that day. We were centered on part of the collection, mostly 19th century, as we were on the move. This collection inside with several  Impressionist paintings is quite nice, including a few beautiful pre-Impressionist Jongkinds and a few small Carpeaux paintings. But there are some late eighteenth century gems, as well, including a fresh looking Jean Baptiste Grueze’s Young Shepherd and Nicolas Bernard Lépicié’s sentimental Emilie Vernet, daughter of the painter (below).












Genial and plenty of sunlight, made viewing artworks pleasant and easy.

Not since Michelangelo has anyone seen beauty in the male form as in Ugolino and His Sons. Legs, arms and hands of father and adolescent son, muscles flexed and pumped up (remember they are starving to death), will not be seen so, until Rodin. And the horror of that face, almost a monster at the angle in this photo. Quite different than the sappy, Boy with a Shell, whose real beauty is the mischievousness of the face. Very different too from the almost feminine central male figure in La Danse.

There also is the two small oil studies, which show his way of thinking about form. It is always provoking to be able to see the sculptor’s two dimensional work.

Voltaire by Houdon and Jean CarrièsJules Breton

Houdon’s “Voltaire,” always struck me as being one of the most genial portrait I have ever seen, and wonderful in this setting. The strong portrait of Breton, by Jean Carriès is the kind of great study of French male faces in the 19th century. It reminds us of how silly all that effeminate stuff out of the earlier Louis age looked, even worse than all that van Dykey fake posturing. And also beautifully lit. In fact the lighting for sculpture throughout is often subtle and well done. 

No less beautifully lit is Paul-Albert Bartholomé’s (above) and again there are the wonderful women grouped  together by Carpeaux (directly below, left shot) .  Mademoiselle Fiocre (center, directly below; separate shot far right) was a prima ballerina. A beautiful portrait, and not so classical. Madam Carpeaux (directly below, right; far bottom details) looking no less like one of the Bacchante like women in La Danse.

There are many things, including paintings. Jongkind is one, like Boudin, I can never get enough. These pioneers made Monet and the rest “realize” Impressionism. They are more restrained in coloration. It takes someone like

Johan Barthold Jongkind’s L’Aubrge Saint-Parize-La-Châtel

Constable to show you where Impressionism can go. Have you ever been to the Fitzwilliam? Anyway here are a few beauties.

Camille Pissaro’s Le Pont Royal et le Pavillion de Flore

Claude Monet’s Soleil couchant sur la Seine a Lavacourt, effet d’hiver and detail

Alfred Sisley L’Église de Moret (le soir)

The Monet reminiscent of his Impression: Sunrise, done eight years earlier. Looking at it, you wonder what would Turner have thought of it. And the Sisley, before the broken brushwork, a very solid architectural massing.

Alfred Sisley Le Scieurs de long

There are many paintings more including portraits by Couture and Legros. An early Courbet (below), and a strange early Cezanne, only two of four shown, couldn’t get around the onlookers.

Courbet Juliette Courbet and Cezanne Untitled, about 1860

There was also portraits of students of Gleyre studio. An interesting sort of piece (above). The decorative art might appear to seem a little silly when compared to the fine art, but the pieces are well done and fit a certain historical record.

Sèvres porcelain with blue bottom

Porcelain figure; clock with porcelain fantasy figures; detail of figures


Le Petit Palais has its own site:


For more on Ugolino and His Sons see the fine article from the Museum of Metropolitan Art, NY


For more on Carpeaux in this blog see


If in Paris, visit this wonderful free museum. It is easy to walk to from either the Tuileries or the Eiffel Tower. Thanks, Rick Steves.


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One Response to “Enfin, Paris!: C’est gratuit. Freebies 1!”

  1. Enfin, Paris!: C’est gratuit 2! (Doo doo au Moderne) « Thinkvisual's Blog Says:

    […] See the other blog for Freebies 1: https://thinkvisual.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/enfin-paris-cest-gratuit-freebies-1/. […]

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