Left: Marmottan Museum...
The first museum we toured today was the wonderful Musee d’Orsay,
greatly expanded since our last visit. On the first floor the art nouveau artists included Toulouse-Lautrec, with some famed paintings of the denizens of the demi-monde, as well as large canvases (unfinished) which still showed the brilliant caricature style and organic line of this notable non-conformist. One of these works was a reconstructed work that had in later times been chopped up into three paintings, to sell for more. There was also an incredible Tiffany window based on a painting of Toulouse-Lautrec. Moving around the floor we saw a best collection of Courbet anywhere, including his monumental canvases “The Burial of Ornans” and the “Artist’s Studio.” Both showed realistic figures of Courbet’s time in ordinary settings; as the politically and artistically revolutionary Courbet stated, “Show me an angel and I’ll paint one.” His paintings ushered in the other realists, such as Manet. We also saw a wonderful collection of sculpture and paintings by Gauguin and such top-notch Van Goghs as the portrait of Doctor Gachet, the church at Arles and several late period landscapes. Van Gogh’s energy is overwhelming, and it’s to see how his art sapped his life. We took a break for a marvelous luncheon in Le Restaurant, which is set in a beautiful room with ceiling paintings, crystal chandeliers, and a magnificent view of some Paris roof tops. The food and wine are first rate. Jim had a colorful plate of penned de cecco, garnished with chorizo, cheese, etc and my fish featured a squid sauce that was a wonderful complement to the tasty, firm flesh of the poisson. We washed down these plates with a superb Cotes du Rhone rouge. Jim ‘s dessert was a gateau au chocolat, but my lemon cake was even better.
After lunch we continued up to the very top of le Musee d’Orsay where we saw their trove of Impressionist masterpieces. Notable works filled the galleries, by artists like Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Sisley, Manet and others, including the little known by first rate talent Caillebotte. (See his painting of workers scrapping a floor down, on this blog.) Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass “ (Dejeuner sur l’herbe) still packs a punch, and in the Neo-Impresionist galleries one should not overlook Seurat’s “Circus.”
We left the d’Orsay to take a train west past the Eiffel Tower to see the Musee Marmottan. It’s located off the beaten track and took us a while to locate. The mansion of the art historian Marmottan became a museum for Napoleonic-era works and also some gems by the Impressionists, particularly Monet. Most famed is “Impression, Sunrise” which gave the group of artists their (then derogatory) name. There are also some late Monets of his lily gardens at Giverny. Though not as important as the works at the Musee d’Orsay, it was interesting to visit this collection for the first time. –Dan