March 28, 2007
There is a lot to see and do in Paris this Spring. I've already reported on the "Salon du Dessin", but that is just one of the events going on this month. This week, the exhibition "Nouveau Réalisme" opened at the Grand Palais. It is a retrospective of the short-lived but influential "New Realist" movement that was the forerunner of Pop Art. Probably the most famous artist to come out of the movement is Christo, but other notables include Arman, Hains, de Saint Phalle, Spoerri, Tinguely and Villeglé. These are not household names in the US, but their work is important in the understanding of 20th Century art.
Other exhibitions I visited include "René Lalique: Bijoux d'exception 1890-1912" on view at the Musée de Luxembourg through July 29. Known worldwide for his frosted glass vases and objects, Lalique actually began his career as a creator of fine jewels. Working primarily in gold with diamonds, enamel, opals, emeralds and glass, Lalique reinterpreted nature with an Art Nouveau flair. A close look at Lalique's exquisitely wrought brooches, pendants, collars and necklaces reveals Symbolist masterpieces with snakes, dragonflies, swans and orchids turned into objects of great mystery and elegance. Lalique was obsessed with beauty and women and used the medium of his jewelry to explore the contrast of virginal beauty versus the "femme fatale", the female peacock versus the snake charmer.
Also opening this week is the annual "Art Paris '07" a modern and contemporary art fair held at the Grand Palais. This fair is big, but with the emphasis on contemporary art rather than more classical modern, it can be walked through rather quickly. For me, the main attraction of this art fair is the access to the main pavilion of the Grand Palais, literally "Large Palace", a building that was completed in 1889 in time for the Universal Exhibition. The interior is like an enormous solarium or greenhouse, with millions of glass panels supported by curving Art Nouveau style ironworks forming the roof. It was re-opened as an exhibition hall in 2006 after years of restoration and the results are magnificent. Really, they could show farm equipment in this space and it would look beautiful!
My favorite current exhibition is a masterpiece of beauty and elegance "John Singer Sargent and Joaquin Sorolla - Painters of Light" at the Petit Palais. Sargent (1856-1925) was born in Venice to wealthy American parents and had a very privileged upbringing. Sorolla (1863-1923) was born in Valencia in more modest circumstances and was orphaned at a very young age. Both were extremely successful as painters in their lifetimes and both used light in unique and powerful ways in their work. This exhibition contrasts their portraiture and landscape paintings throughout their remarkable careers and is a truly uplifting experience for the visitor. Sargent is noted for his stunning formal portraits of the aristocracy while Sorolla imbues his sitters, even in formal settings, with an impressionistic but emotionally revealing expression. No photograph can do these works justice. One must really see them in person and let their luminosity and intensity envelope and astound you. It was a wonderful experience!
To celebrate a Sunday when the sun actually came out, we made an excursion to Fontainebleau, the fabulous castle and grounds built in the 12th Century and occupied by every crowned head of France through the Napoleons! Maintained and restored by the French Government, this historic site is rare in its completeness and fine condition. There is a lot to see here from the State Apartments and Chapel, to the beautiful gardens designed by Le Notre and the "real" tennis court on the grounds.
In between all of this museum going and art fair visiting, I have managed some shopping for prints and will be posting some lovely pieces on my website very soon! I invite you to visit and see what's new.
Finally, it is time to go home. Despite the cold and rain Paris is always Paris and continues to charm. It has been a wonderful stay and I certainly look forward to the next visit, but New York is bursting into Spring and with that comes new adventures and discoveries. I bid you au revoir and hope you will check back again soon.