Dior

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about an exhibit of Dior, the famous French clothing designer. There were lines waiting to enter, even if you had gotten a ticket for a reserved time online which I had. Some people, even with a ticket, had to wait an hour before entering. It’s getting near to the time when the exhibit is ending and maybe there are fewer people because I arrived early and was let in 20 minutes before my reserved time. The museum, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, was packed with people, and some areas were way to small to see things but it was still worth the time. He was indeed an artistic genius, as were the people who took his place when he died. I’m not a very fashionable person, but I do love looking at beautiful clothing.

I don’t know if this was done by some bored person waiting to enter the exhibit or not but I rather liked it. It was right by the entrance.

This was at the top of the stairs leading into the exhibit. It was done in lights.

I’m watching the TV series, The Crown, so this photo of Princess Margaret wearing a Dior gown on her 21st birthday caught my eye.

Dior loved the form of flowers, and the form of women as well, and many of his designs centered in some way with flowers. One of the exhibit rooms had the whole ceiling covered with flowers. All of the rooms were lovely and the clothing and other items were displayed beautifully and creatively.

A huge display in the last room with golden sparkle lights adding to the feeling.

He did perfume too. Isn’t this display pretty?

A look at some of the bottles of perfume done through the years. My favourite perfume is by Dior called J’adore. Such a lovely fragrance.

A Wilde Day

There was recently an exhibit about Oscar Wilde at the Petit Palais here in Paris. I decided to check it out since I am somewhat a fan of his. I read his most popular book, The Picture of Dorian Gray, years ago and it is mentioned many times here and there about someone who wants to stay eternally young even if it means a pact with the devil. I also saw his play, The Importance of Being Earnest, which I really liked. It was full of humor and in the production that I saw the main older woman character was played by a man which added to the laughter. Wilde was born in Dublin, Ireland and became a well known writer of many things. He was known for his personality and humor and his support of aestheticism, a way of living a life devoted to the arts, beauty and culture. In fact, he was brought to America to speak on it and dressed the part in short pants and silk stockings, for what was supposed to be for four months but ended up staying for a year doing things like drinking whiskey with miners in Leadville, Colorado. He was wildly popular. He returned to England, married and had two children but eventually ended up in a homosexual affair with a young man, Lord Alfred Douglas, whose father was royalty, the Marquess of Queensberry. First Wilde sued the father for slander but dropped the case but the father had him brought to trial for sodomy and gross indecency. Wilde was found guilty and put in prison for two years with hard labor. The prisoners were treated horribly and Wilde, not a well man to begin with, became ill and passed out rupturing an ear drum. When he was finally released he moved to Paris and lived a live of financial ruin and drank a lot. He eventually ended up in a rather rundown hotel, now the very nice l’Hotel, of which he said “The wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One of us has got to go” where he died of cerebral meningitis on November 30, 1900 at the age of 45, probably as the result of that ruptured ear drum. He is now buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

img_2366 Here is a photo of him at the exhibit. I thought it must have been hard to put this exhibit together as he was a writer and there is just so much you can look at in books, etc. I was surprised that the French found him interesting enough to put an exhibit together but he did die in Paris and had plays performed there.  It was rather small exhibit.

img_2371 Here he is in silk stockings.

img_2370 To add some color and interest, they exhibited some paintings of an art exhibit that Wilde had written about.

img_2367 They had many of his original manuscripts and I loved seeing his hand writing.

img_2372 Some of his quotes were on the walls. One of his most famous is: We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.

A few days later I went to Wilde’s tomb in Père Lachaise.

img_2638 Here it is in the late afternoon sun, an Assyrian God. They had to put a barrier around it because so many women were leaving “kisses” on it for some reason. The lipstick was destroying the tomb.

img_2639Closeup.

img_2641 A kiss on the acrylic barrier.

Incredible

I was recently at the Louis Vuitton Foundation where a new exhibit has been set up showing 130 works of art once collected by Russian Visionary Sergei Shchukin and placed in his palace where they covered the walls. He was a Russian textile merchant and his paintings were considered one of the finest collections of modern art in the world.  He amassed over 250 works of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in his lifetime. The exhibit is mostly impressionists on display along with a few others such as Picasso (34 of his works) and Cezanne who did not consider himself one, so you can see Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and more. He was an acquaintance of Matisse who introduced him to Picasso about whom Shchukin said he did not understand and is quoted as saying, “I’m sure he is right, and not me”. Matisse was also brought to Shchukin’s palace in Moscow to help decorate it in 1911. During Stalin’s reign and the Russian Revolution his art work was seized and placed in three museums (he and his family ended up in France) and this is the first time the paintings have left Russia in 100 years. As you might imagine, there was a huge insurance premium and although the Orsay Museum would probably make more sense for these paintings, the Louis Vuitton Foundation was the only museum who could afford to pay it. They hired their own guards too.

 

img_2212 Here’s a look at the museum as you approach, designed by Gehry, an American. It usually is plain glass but the coloured panels are a temporary art exhibit by Daniel Buren who also did the black and white striped columns at Palais Royal. It looks like Noah’s Ark to me in shape. A quote on Gehry’s building: “Your first instinct, when you see an extraordinary new building that looks like nothing you have ever seen before, is to try to understand it by connecting it to what you know. And so Frank Gehry’s new Fondation Louis Vuitton, in Paris, looks like sails, and it looks like a boat, and it looks like a whale, and it looks like a crystal palace that is in the middle of an explosion.” Some said it looked like a space ship. When you bring an engineer or an architect to see it, they are amazed at the construction. It is incredible to go to the top level and see how the glass panels are held up or to the side.

img_2239 The side of the building. The building is on the edge of the Bois du Boulogne, an enormous forest near the Champs Elysees. It is next to the children’s garden. This location kept the powers that be in Paris from interfering too much in the design. the colored squares and rectangles by Buren can be seen close up.  Buren is known best for using regular, contrasting colored stripes as you can see here. He used twelve hues of colors.

img_2231 A light installation from the artist Olafur Eliasson lines the lower level “grotto”.

img_2221 I loved the set up of the museum with these arches in one room and the dark gray paint. The rooms were very roomy, not small and cramped like some museums and even with large numbers of people roaming around, it was easy to look at the paintings.

img_2222 I can’t remember the artist for this painting. I just liked the view of la Madeleine and a look at the horse drawn cabs in the street. Also notice that black smoke billowing in the distance. I’ve read that in this age of coal burning energy sources, women often wore coats over their dressing to protect them from coal dust in the air. I imagine it wasn’t good for your lungs either.

img_2225 Taken from the side and not cropped but look at the lovely light. By Monet.

img_2226 I believe this is by Monet too and everyone is dressed-no naked ladies.

If you come to Paris and want to see this exhibit, be sure and order your tickets online and print them out as the line to buy them in person  can be up to an hour long.

 

Don’t Speak

I went to a very nice exhibit at the Orangerie here in Paris the other day to see an exhibit of American painters from the 1930’s. I’m not sure how this exhibit came about, as I’m not sure the French would be that enamoured with American artists, but I have to say I really enjoyed most of the paintings. My friend and I had just started looking and I leaned down to read the explanation next to a painting and I turned to her and said, “Look, this was painted in Iowa!” when one of the museum guards came up to me and said, “Please don’t speak in here”. Can you believe that? I was speechless at first. I wasn’t talking loudly although most French think that Americans are loud, so I said, “I can’t take photos, and I can’t speak. Can I LOOK?” I was really mad. I think I’m going to call the museum and complain. I’m wondering if it had to do with my being an American. Who knows? In any case, after I cooled down, I enjoyed the exhibit.

img_2059 This is a photo of the catalog for sale in the book shop. This is the first painting you see. This painting is by Grant Wood. There were several by him as well as Georgia O’Keefe and Hopper. It turns out they were brother and sister.

img_2057 Since I couldn’t take photos inside, I took this from the entrance. Such a strange looking couple. I guess they were caught in the Great Depression which many of the paintings depict.

img_2054 They have a permanent exhibit there too. This is by Degas.

img_2061 The Orangerie was once used to keep orange trees placed around the Tuileries Garden inside during winter so there is a lot of glass and light.

img_2063 There are two oval rooms there built just for these giant paintings by Monet of his water lily filled pond.

img_2069 Another wall. He painted many paintings in different light trying to capture every change.

The Spectacular Second Empire

 There is an interesting exhibit at the Orsay Museum called the Spectacular Second Empire 1852 to 1870 which gives a look at was called the “fête imperial”, an era of pleasure that was corrupted by wealth and sent many people who protested into exile, such as Victor Hugo, and 6,000 into prisons. A strong economy and a stable imperial regime resulted when Louis-Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon I, was elected the first President of the French Republic in December 1848 after a life spent in exile in England. His wife, Eugenie, became a fashion icon and championed the luxury goods industry and helped make Paris the entertainment capital of Europe. For example, she used Louis Vuitton for her luggage which led to his world wide fame. Charles Garnier’s new Opera House, the most famous and spectacular monument in Haussman Paris done during Napoleon III’s time, is an example of the massive redesign of Paris. The first department stores were opened during his reign, Bon Marche in 1852, followed by Au Printemps in 1865. 
 On display are some of the furniture, porcelain, and jewellery used or worn by the couple. There are many paintings on display as well. In the early Second Empire, few artists could compete with the artists Ingres and Winterhalter but during the 1860’s a new generation of painters emerged-Manet, Tissot, Degas and Cézanne-who made their name with full length portraits.
 The Second Empire ended with the defeat of France in the French-Prussian War and the capture of Napoleon III and the couple spent the rest of their lives in England and are, in fact, buried there.

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A painting of Eugenie.

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They had a son who slept in this elaborate bed, the most expensive piece of furniture made during this period worked on by many French artisans.

img_1783 Napoleon III.

img_1782 Some of Eugenie’s crowns.

img_1785 By Manet, Picnic on the Grass. It was rejected by the French Academy and instead put into le Salon des Refuses, an exhibit for more unconventional paintings such as this. It was controversial because the men were of the day it was painted bringing into question the nude woman, perhaps a prostitute? Anyway, it is pretty famous these days. I don’t know about you but I often go nude when on a picnic.

The Orient Express

I think everyone has heard of the Orient Express, the famous train that used to run between London and Istanbul with links to points beyond. It was made even more famous by the book and then movie (several of them) by Agatha Christie called Murder on the Orient Express. There is an exhibit of the Orient Express at the l’Institut du Monde Arabe and they have actually somehow (I would love to see how) brought in four cars from the original Orient Express and set them up outside the museum for visitors to look at, inside and out. Two of the cars are even the ones used in the movie, the version with Albert Finney as Hercule Poirot. As I read “Organized by the World Arab Institute and the French national rail company SNCF, the exhibition highlights the luxury that travelers experienced on board this icon of transport.” Can it be matched for glamor or romance? Not to me. Originally a twice-weekly trip between Paris and Istanbul via Strasbourg, Vienna, Budapest and Bucharest, passengers made the last part of their journey to Istanbul by ferry. Now the trip is only between London and Venice.

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An engine set up outside the museum which you can see in the background.

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The train had hot and cold running water, heating and gas lights.

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A poster-behind glass, thus the reflection-of the famous movie.

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An old map showing the routes. As you can see, once you reached Istanbul, you crossed the water by ferry (you see this in the movie) and then could continue on to such places as Egypt and Ankara.

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Tables were set up with antique items from days gone by.

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Cigarettes of course. Look at that low price.

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Decorative touches done by Lalique, the famous French glass designer.

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The service area, seen in the movie, where tea and coffee were prepared. There were little video screens showing scenes from the movie.

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I took this just because I liked the lighting behind.

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Some more of the beautiful, elegant decorations.

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I saw the exhibit late on Friday night and saw this on the way home.

As per my wine glass dregs “reading,” I suppose I really did need a little bit more excitement in my life because, as the fates would have it, I find myself here in Venice of all places – soon to board the Orient Express!