Paris 2015, Day Nine

(May 10, 2015)

It’s a good thing I rested yesterday, because we covered a LOT today. We started with breakfast at home, then went right out to the newly-opened Picasso Museum.

This was a huge collection of his work, and apparently more than a little controversial. I must say that I was hoping to get a better idea of the evolution of his work, perhaps some insight into how he made such a profound shift in perspective from the classic school he was taught in to the (frankly) bizarre way he ended up describing the world.

Picasso's version

The Kiss, Picasso’s version

That did not happen. I remain confused by ‘cubism’ and by Picasso’s attempt to show ‘all’ perspectives in a single 2D painting. I can absolutely see his underlying talent as a painter — for example, his “Two Women Running On the Beach” is simply lovely (and strikingly reminiscent of Diego Rivera’s work as a muralist).

Two Women Running On the Beach

Two Women Running On the Beach

I just don’t understand his perspective.

The Lovers

The Lovers

One thing that struck me was that if he’d been doing this work while under the care of a psychologist, he’d be given anti-psychotic drugs in a flash. When I was in college, I remember looking at a chapter/paper about an artist (Louis Wain) who’s favored subject was cats. He had a mental condition (maybe schizophrenia) that resulted in a fantastic series of paintings that clearly show the progression of his dis-association with what we call normal.

I am not calling Picasso crazy, I was merely struck by the similarities.

We wandered the neighborhood, admiring the artisanal offerings, and decided on lunch at Les Philosophes. This is a truly great bistro whose owner believes in local food, organic, cooked properly, and that meals are made to be savored. We loved it. The menu has solid (typical) French favorites, but a chalkboard menu changes daily (a picture is posted online soon after opening). The café was superb, the bread delicious, and portions are HUGE. I had pate and shared a bit of J’s salad (the beets and avocado were mine) and should have stopped there, because I really couldn’t do justice to the salad (fresh greens, mushrooms, beets, avocado and radish with a light dressing on the side) I’d also ordered. My friends I. and D. both had the ‘brunch’ — café, fruit with yogurt, scrambled eggs, and toast. J also had a beef filet, which came with gorgeously wonderful fried potatoes (like thick cut chips). Outstanding, and 160 eu for all of it. (No wine.)

From there we walked to the Musee d’Orsay, which was a bit further than we intended, but good for working off such a large lunch.

Musee d'Orsay ceiling

Musee d’Orsay ceiling

If you haven’t been to the M d’O, then go. It’s a wonderful visit, full of some of the best pieces of Pre- and Post-Impression works in existence.

Boy reclining/ reading

Boy reclining/ reading

I’ll have to let my pictures speak for themselves.

detail from Renoir's "Garcon et chat" (the Boy with the Cat)

detail from Renoir’s “Garcon et chat” (the Boy with the Cat)

This piece is particularly interesting. The M d’O website says:

The Boy with the Cat has not given up all its secrets. This male nude has no equivalent in Renoir’s work. The identity of the model seen from the back cuddling the cat is unknown. His sly glance at the spectator remains mysterious. The scene does not seem to have any mythological reference.

Renoir painted it in 1868, a turning point for the artist who was still at the beginning of his career. After being refused that the Salons of 1866 and 1867, he had at last tasted success with a large female portrait in the open air, Lise with a Parasol, now in the Folkwang Museum, Essen. The second half of the 1860s was also the time of his comradeship with Bazille, Sisley and Monet. They were all deeply marked by the example of their glorious elders, Courbet and Manet, whose influence can be seen in the realistic treatment and the cold colour harmonies of The Boy with the Cat.

detail of Riviere's Salammbô chez Mathô, Je t'aime ! Je t'aime

detail of Riviere’s Salammbô chez Mathô, Je t’aime ! Je t’aime

Théodore Rivière was one of the leading Orientalist sculptors. He not only drew on literary texts but travelled extensively in North Africa, the Far East and South America.

The subject of this work was taken from Gustave Flaubert’s novel, Salammbô, published in 1862. The story takes place between 241–238 BC, during the war between Carthage and its mercenaries in revolt. The Libyan Mâthô, the chief of the barbarian soldiers, fell in love with Salammbô, the daughter of his Carthaginian enemy Hamilcar Barca. Rivière has chosen the moment when, mortally wounded by the people, Mâthô dies at the feet of his idol crying: “I love you! I love you!” The figure of Salammbô, the femme fatale, inspired many other Symbolist artists.

I was struck by the delicacy of the overall piece, and the lack of expression on her face.

Pan et oursons by Emmanuel Fremiet

Pan et oursons by Emmanuel Fremiet

I love the delight so evident in Pan’s face as he feeds honey combs to the bear cubs. Not a side we usually see of him.

We walked home from there, and decided to go for dinner in our neighborhood. We decided to try Le Dome, which has a truly gorgeous interior and phenomenally fresh seafood.  It’s also famous!

From the beginning of the 1900s, it was renowned as an intellectual gathering place. It was widely known as “the Anglo-American café.” Opening in 1898, it was the first such café in Montparnasse. It “created and disseminated gossip, and provided message exchanges and an ‘over the table’ market that dealt in artistic and literary futures.” It was frequented by the famous (and soon to be famous) painters, sculptors, writers, poets, models, art connoisseurs and dealers. Le Dôme later became the gathering place of the American literary colony and became a focal point for artists residing in Paris’s Left Bank.

A poor artist used to be able to get a Saucisse de Toulouse (sausage) and a plate of mashed potatoes for $1. Today, it is a top fish restaurant (the Michelin Guide gives it one 1/3 stars star), with a comfortably old-fashioned décor. (from Wikipedia)

It was delicious, and expensive. 350 euro for 3 glasses of wine, 2 bottles of water, 2 starters, and four entrees. That said, the service was excellent, the food prepared perfectly, and we enjoyed ourselves. It was just a little more expensive than it should have been.

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