Big City Tales

Take Time to Think and Ponder at Musee Rodin

September 27, 2018
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As the father of modern sculpture, Auguste Rodin was known for his incredible ability to convey a range of complex human emotions in his stunning works. Be they made of bronze, clay, marble or plaster, Rodin applied a deft touch of hand and showed his in depth understanding of the human psyche in pieces such as The Thinker, The Kiss and The Gates of Hell, to name just a few of his masterpieces on display at Musée Rodin in Paris, France.

From Mythology to Realism

While Rodin was trained in traditional sculpting techniques and had a healthy respect for works demonstrating high quality craftsmanship, where he differed from his contemporaries was in his fervent desire to create works that were not strictly based on myths and allegories. In Rodin’s view, figurative sculpting was too limiting and his preference was to portray the human form in a realistic manner and showcase both physical and emotional aspects that weren’t always “beautiful to behold” in the eyes of his early critics.

From Criticism to Acceptance

Even though Rodin’s unconventional style was not immediately well-received in the arts community, he remained committed to his new vision of sculpting and set about producing a prolific amount of pieces. Good things come to those wait and Rodin eventually found favor with those who had previously offered only harsh critiques. By the turn of the 20th century, Rodin was now being exalted in his native France and, thanks to his World’s Fair exhibit in Paris, his unique aesthetic was now much admired resulting in demand for his services around the globe.

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From Original Clay Models to Finished Works

Rodin’s approach to sculpting began with a mound of clay that he would quickly manipulate with his fingers to obtain an initial form and then set aside. He would tinker with the clay model until he was satisfied with its form and texture and then his assistants would create larger clay versions that would be cast in plaster, cast in bronze, or carved in marble and Rodin would apply the finishing touches. Rodin was known for requesting multiple plasters and using them as raw material for new pieces, such as The Cathedral, which he created by intertwining the right hands made from two different figures. He also had no qualms about pulling individual sculptures from a group of reliefs and turning them into stand-alone pieces such as he did with The Kiss, which was originally part of The Gates of Hell, a monumental work containing some 180 figures.

From Radical Rebel to Genuine Genius

Interestingly, in the later stages of Rodin’s career, many of his “finished” works were in fact “fragments” reused from earlier statues. While many perceived them to be incomplete, such as The Walking Man that shows a partial figure (torso and legs only) in a dynamic pose, Rodin insisted they were as he intended. This new abstract way of sculpting would inspire legions of his students in his workshop and fellow artists who admired his vision.

At the time of Rodin’s death in 1917 he had completed an extraordinary number of sculptures and had rightly earned the right to be called the greatest artist of the modern era. Sheer volume of work notwithstanding, there is no denying that he pushed the boundaries of his craft and left the world with much to look at and consider.

The Musée Rodin is one of the artist’s enduring legacies and contains the largest collection of his sculptures and other paper works. Whether wandering the grounds or exploring the interior galleries, take time to think and ponder as you admire and appreciate Rodin’s immense talent.

 

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The Many Marvels of Musee d’Orsay

June 12, 2018
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When the Gare d’Orsay railway station first opened in 1900, its Beaux-Arts design was the talk of the town in Paris. Chief amongst its admirers was local painter Edouard Detaille, who prophetically penned that the station had the appearance of an art gallery. Little did he know that some 86 years later the station would, in fact, be converted to an art museum, and some of his own prized works would be hung on its walls. The remarkable journey from station to museum is just one of the many marvels of Musee d’Orsay that highlights mostly French painters and sculptors, but also includes masterpieces from notable international artists such as Klimt, Munch, van Gogh and Whistler.

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Amazing Architectural Backdrop

In taking on the station to museum conversion project, the ACT Architecture group was fortunate to have a building with ‘good bones’ that just needed a little tweaking in order to best serve its new purpose. With its high, vaulted ceiling and long, narrow main corridor bathed in natural light and accented by decorative plasters and arches, the designers stayed true to the original station look and layout while adding 20,000 square metres of new floor space.

The Main Hall consists of large, sumptuous sculptures in the central nave that are flanked with numerous side galleries where paintings and other smaller works are displayed. Along the far wall, the opulent and ornate D’Orsay clock designed by Victor Laloux for the original railway station is still mounted and is a work of art in and of itself.

The upper floor features a wide terrace that overlooks the Main Hall below and opens into additional galleries containing more paintings, photographs and a variety of decorative arts.

Homegrown Talent

French artists such as Cabanel, Couture, Delacroix, Fantin-Latour, Ingres, Tissot and de Toulouse-Lautrec amongst a host of others feature prominently in the Musee D’Orsay’s collection of paintings that cover the time period 1848-1914. Selected highlights include The Birth of Venus by Cabanel; Romans during the Decadence by Couture, and In Bed by de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masters

The Musee D’Orsay contains the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, including many works by Cezanne, Degas, Gaugin, Manet, Monet, Morisot, Renoir, Rousseau, Seurat, Sisley, van Gogh and other masters.

Poppy Field by Monet and Starry Night over the Rhone by van Gogh are some of the famous works displayed in the galleries.

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Voila la ville de Paris…C’etait tres magnifique!

December 27, 2011
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The Louvre Museum attracts crowds from morning `til night--on the inside and the outside!

As I was lying on the floor of the Louvre Museum just outside of the Mona Lisa viewing room it occurred to me that being attended to by an ultra-friendly and very helpful American doctor who was trying to get my blood pressure under control was not in the least how I envisioned this tour going!

The famous Venus de Milo statue is just as beloved as the Mona Lisa painting in the Louvre Museum.

With hundreds of museum visitor eyes staring down at me and frantic museum staff trying to push aside said American doctor and ascertain for themselves what was wrong, I felt like I had become the latest work of art on display, but I wasn`t really interested in being viewed.  In an attempt to maintain some semblance of dignity, I tried to ignore the gathering crowd and instead focus my energy on listening to the kind doctor`s words of instruction so that I could quickly regain my feet and rejoin my tour group.  Mortified as I was, my sense of humour did not leave me and I managed to quip that the Mona Lisa simply took my breath away and at least all of this fuss would make for an interesting story after the fact, and it has!

For those inquiring minds who want to know why I had a dizzy spell in the middle of the Louvre, it was due to a few factors that included being jostled about in the mob mayhem trying to get a picture of Madame Mona Lisa in a tightly packed and very warm room, having to stay in this steam-cooker environment to listen to explanations of other Italian masterpiece paintings as part of the tour, and just the mere fact of my immune system adjusting to being on foreign soil.  The whole incident was over just as quickly as it started for which I was grateful as there was so much more to see in this massive museum, and I had yet to explore the exterior gardens and the other gems of Paris that awaited along the Champs-Elysees.

Youthful, lithe and enticing, The Sun King, Louis XIV, graces the exterior of the Louvre Museum.

While the hysteria and antics at the Louvre have provided some of my Paris story fodder, there were other noteworthy occurrences to speak of such as the two faces of Paris that were revealed on a gloomy morning of wind and rain that turned into a glorious afternoon and evening of hot summer sun.

The contemporary and controversial glass pyramid outside the Louvre Museum.

The Eiffel Tower was first-up on the morning agenda so it didn`t make for great picture-taking from the loftiest height in Paris, but nonetheless the great beauty and sheer expanse of the city was evident in walking the perimeter of the tower`s viewing balconies.

Some of the famous bridges of Paris as seen from the Eiffel Tower looking to the west.

La Grande Roue (Ferris Wheel), Paris.

The Louvre Museum tour followed and, although it was starting to clear by the time the tour ended, the sky was still gray as we exited into the Tuileries Gardens and began the march toward the Champs-Elysees passing the Luxor Obelisk, the Pont Alexandre III, and the National Assembly toward the Arc de Triomphe.

L`Arc de Triomphe.

Close-up of carved relief on the Arc de Triomphe.

It was after a light bistro lunch that the sun finally revealed its warmth and the true colours of Paris were revealed.   There is nothing like a vivid blue, cloudless backdrop of sky to bring stark and stoic buildings to life and provide plenty of photographic inspiration.  My feet may have already been aching after making the trek from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, but Notre Dame Cathedral was beckoning and, feeling well-fueled and no longer light-headed, how could I not return to the sites of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower to capture these Paris lovelies now bathed in sunlight, so off I went back down the Champs-Elysees.  I admit to hopping a cab between Notre Dame and the Louvre because it was now early evening at this point and the sun was starting to descend in the sky; other than that it was all hoofing it on foot and, yes, I paid the price the next day, but it was oh so worth it to see gay Paris in all its glittering and magnificent glory!

The Eiffel Tower.

Steel detail from the Eiffel Tower.

Notre Dame Cathedral.

Stained-glass window interior shot of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Roof-top detail of the Louvre Museum.

The Coronation of Josephine, David`s masterpiece on display at the Louvre Museum.