I know I’m still down about three Louvre posts as well as the Eiffel and Latin quarter, but if I don’t keep up with the new stuff none of it will ever get written.
After our amazing day yesterday, which ended in giggles and me seeing how much crepe I could fit into my mouth at one time, Elise and I concur that today has been our one crappy day of the honeymoon thus far.
We woke up early and I made the best scrambled eggs ever made, with gouda, brie, chevre, and maybe manchego? It was really cheese with eggs as connective tissue. Best ever.
Afterwards, perhaps as a result of the 3000% increase in my dairy intake over the last few days, I fell back into a deep slumber from which I could not be roused. Even after I was finally dragged back out of bed at noon I was in a complete haze, and kept drifting off on the couch while Elise counted out our coins for the ticket machine. My grump had mostly lifted by the time we were off the Metro, but I was still sluggish.
Today’s big adventure was Musee d’Orsay, which is the modern art museum. With apologies to my sister-in-law and our dear friend Francesca, d’Orsay blew. In a word, Elise describes it as “ungratifying.”
Rather than a word, I choose to describe it in an illustrative allegory:
In the ground floor gallery I was looking from one room into the next, and I thought I spotted a Munch. It was pretty far away, but it was in the general shape of a Munch I recalled.
I approached the gallery, and as I neared the painting it became apparent it was not the Munch in question, but a massive, close study of a disembodied vagina.
That captures my feelings on Musee d’Orsay exactly: not the thing you thought it was, but actually some other thing, which in other settings is an awesome thing, but in this instance not awesome in the manner in which it is presented.
The main sculpture hall is magnificent to look at from afar, but the actual rooms were claustrophobic, especially on the fifth level. I realized as we jostled our way through (and on a Saturday – without any groups!) how much I really appreciated that Louvre had seating in every gallery.
Also, the collections were simply overwhelming – like, not in the sense of “the Louvre is so large; it’s overwhelming,” but in the sense of, “there is too much Degas in this room to focus on any one of them; it’s overwhelming.”
D’orsay features a lot of impressionism, including pre- and post-, and it’s not really my favorite period. There’s only so many times I can appreciate that something looks like its subject in a subjective way before it all just comes off like a torturous, never-ending labyrinth of Magic Eye (which is not meant as a dig on pointillism, which I actually do appreciate).
I was excited for Room 60, which included a Munch and a Klimt, who are two of my top artists in general, and especially from this period. All through the impressionists I was like, “it’s okay, I’m going to get to see a Munch, it will be so cool.” Lo, we arrived in 60 to find that neither painting was on display. (Thus, the vagina incident is revealed to be even more painful.)
Also, the major special exhibit at the moment is basically just about how Picasso was a twisted psychotic and spent two years copying Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe over and over again in increasingly abstract ways until he was literally creating cardboard cutouts of the deconstructed characters.
There were a few high points.
Even though the volume of Degas was tiring, I enjoyed watching the evolution of his work. I was endlessly fascinated by The Pedicure, because it has a very specific, photographic depth of field. It’s quite fascinating – Elise and I had a lengthy discussion about how he might have conceived of the technique, as it’s not something easily observed with the naked eye.
I’m sure Jenny can explain it to us.
I also loved the dance class, which has a similar specific focus along the shoulders of the girls (plus, the tutus are incredible).
I also delighted in my discoveries of Gustave Caillebotte, and I say “discoveries” because three times I found paintings that I loved and subsequently realized they were by him.
I’ll definitely be buying a book as soon as we can find one (D’orsay puzzlingly, had nothing to speak of, even though they have two of his major works on display).
The upper restaurant was fantastic, and may merit its own post. There was also an appropriately-sized section of beautiful art nouveau furnishings that I would have killed to have Francesca guide me through.
Finally, there was one room of “symbolism,” a period/style that neither of us were especially familiar with. From what I could discern on a brief pass it’s an allegorical style that casts modern situations with clear historic or mythological analogues. I loved the entire room, but my favorite was a painting that claimed to be about some sort of pastoral school yard, but that I have retitled, (and all the apostles sang) Rock Me, Sexy Jesus, for obvious reasons. Behold:
(I implore you to click through for a closer look. The allegorical only begotten son homoeroticism is unparalleled.)
Okay, one last point of suckitude: d’Orsay claims to be open until six, but shortly before five thirty they rope off many of the individual exhibits and start shooing you towards the exits.
Like I said, it blew. I’m thankful for being introduced to Caillebotte and symbolism, but otherwise would have preferred a second day in Louvre.
Afterwards we walked along the river for a bit, terminating in my ideal shot of Eiffel (it’s on Elise’s camera, so you’ll have to wait), and then we detoured past Grand & Petit Palais (which will have Warhol from March to Bastille) to get to Champs-Élysées.
Champs-Élysées was a bit of a paradox. We were expecting faire du shopping to net some of the wonderful fashions we’ve been encountering on the Metro all week. However, despite a few browses in both French and international stores, we didn’t settle on anything. I felt like we kept seeing the designer versions of indie trends, which I suppose is entirely the point of Champs-Élysées? I’m certainly happy to have walked the street, especially since I finally got to see Arc de Triomphe up close, and it was definitely a sight to be seen. I just thought I’d buy more stuff.
By the end Elise was barely standing, and we rode an assortment of Metros to get back home.
Maybe we were just predisposed to grumpiness, but today just didn’t bring the awesome of yesterday, despite a similar slate of activities. I hold out hope that we’re heading back out for a late night jaunt to the Moulin Rouge, but Elise may be down for the count – and she has all of our money.