Paris Through a Window by Marc Chagall, 1913, by way of A.M.

Monday, February 22, 2010


It is Monday morning, but I shall write about Sunday, which was a day of art, and a wonderful one at that. In some ways, much of this trip feels like it is about visual art – painting especially – there is so much here that is very beautiful, moving and human – and there is the time to take it in, to go from one to the other, drinking it in. And with my camera I try to make small paintings. 

We began by heading up to Boulevard Haussman on the Metro, our sights set on Musee JacqueMart-Andre, a collection that an art-loving couple put together in the 1800's. The plan was to have some lunch first, but when we got up there – Sunday morning – Boulevard Haussman was deserted, every place shuttered. 

We did not panic. 

We approached the museum itself, clearly open for business, and were delighted to see that they offered a cafe that was open. We bought our tickets and entered, walking up a gravelled, curved short drive from the street into a walled inner courtyard. Around and in through the front doors and into the cafe – I was taken with it right away. It was full of chattering couples at small tables, the ceiling was very high, the walls covered with tapestries – there was color and light and it reminded me of the Palm Court at the Plaza – or my memory of the Palm Court anyway, which I haven't seen in almost 3 decades – but it had that instant feeling of luxury. 

The waitress hugely disappointed me when she said I was not allowed to take pictures. So I had to sneak a couple surreptitiously, holding my camera under the table and hitting the shutter randomly, hoping to get something that at least might give you a feel for the place.

I enjoyed roaming the house itself. The art did not call to me, but I liked the small but beautiful rooms and, as always, imagining how the people actually lived here, imagining them waking up in their bedrooms, looking out into the courtyard, sitting at their desk, or in front of the fire, sewing or writing. In one room though I was suddenly drawn to a small painting. It didn't look like any of the others. I had to see it. I looked closely. The light in it was unearthly. Ah. It was a Rembrandt. The name of the painting is: The Disciples of Emmaus. And then I looked at a portrait nearby, also by Rembrandt. I have never before caught on why Rembrandt is special – but yesterday I saw how the skin of his subject was rough and craggy, as if it were molded from clay – not from smooth marble the way the most common portraits of the time are done. His faces have much more real texture. And I felt a new door in art open to me. 

There were no photos allowed in place at all -- but I snuck these few from my favorite part, the "Jardin D'Hivers" -- the Winter Garden -- a place with a skylight where you could imagine them sitting in winter.

Met up with Fred again – we generally go our separate ways in museums and meet up later – jumped onto the Metro and went this time to Marmotain-Monet. This part of town was much more populated – ah, so THIS is where everyone is today, I thought. They are NOT on the Boulevard Haussman. The sidewalks were full, the cafes also. We walked through a wonderful park – kids playing soccer, roller skating, some on bikes. Little kids getting rides on donkeys and a small merry-go-round. All of it very low-key. The merry-go-round looked like it had been there for decades without an update. As the children went around, they each held a stick in their hands, reaching to grab with it a ring as they spun. 

The side of the Museum with poster

The art in this museum was wonderful – a great deal of Monet. One small Manet that particularly interested me since I've been reading his biography this week. It makes such a difference to know something of the artist. And I saw many paintings I liked very much from the early 20th century by painters I had not heard of before. I did not make note of their names, just took in the bright colors, the scenes, the wonderfulness of it all, imagined how great it would be to have a life where you could paint and look at what others were doing and go home and paint some more. 

It is Monday morning now and we have some more art ideas for the day – see you in a bit. Love, m


  1. Oh, this is so wonderful! Thank you so much for all the fine details, I feel like I am walking around with you. And winter is the best time to be there, I always remember my winter experience there ....even your photos speak French!

  2. Merci, Pannajoy. Yes, Paris in winter seems extra special. Though I would love to see the gardens in bloom, it is nice to have the city "to ourselves!"

  3. I too love to wonder how the people who lived in these old houses spent their days. I feel as though I am with you in Paris even while I am working in London.