Chapter Twelve

Copyright © 2002 by Martin S. Reff
All Rights Reserved

Thursday, June 14, 2001

Took our visitors to the Roman arena, L'Arènes de Lutéce, and then to the Sorbonne, followed by a short walk in the Luxembourg Gardens; lunched at a sandwich store, and then to an antique fair at place St-Suplice. Found a book I'd love to own, Masterpieces of Chinese Art , by Rhoda and Jeffrey Cooper (1990), but we've bought too many books already and they're heavy.

Home for a nap. Later E. & E. came over - played bridge and then a fabulous meal at Morlaix.

We walked until 11:30 PM then home to bed.

Friday, June 15, 2001

Saw E.& E. off at the bus stop. My brother said that the best thing he saw was La Défense. We gave each other hugs - longer and firmer than ever before. And kisses from my sister-in-law. I believe we've cemented a fine relationship that will harden in the months and years to come.

Marcia and I have slight sore throats and are pooped. Laundry and a nap.

Shopped at Inno for dinner: magret (a cut of the breast of a duck) and then took our walk which was fun. We walked down avenue de Maine and then further down Montparnasse.

At home we played a few hands of bridge and talked about art a bit. And then I had the thought that one really can't call what Marcia and I had seen at the Bibliothèque Nationale "art." It's something else - clever certainly, funny perhaps, and neat. Fun for the moment. But so is a joke. Is it Art?

Saturday, June 16, 2001

We got a good night's sleep, a short nap later for me and then a trip to FNAC to see what we can do about our binoculars that need repair. We arranged to have them picked up by a friend of ours who will then send them to us.

After that I stopped by the Brocante fair at St-Suplice to find the names of some Chinese artists who did work in the ninth or tenth century: Li Cheng and Ju Ran.

On the way back we stopped off at the office of the Mayor of the 6th Arrondissement to see an exhibit of old Paris. I found a map of the city in the 14th century, a copy of which I would have loved to have. Discovered that Etienne Marcel had been a revolutionary. If is takes two semesters of study to cover American History, I wonder how French high school students manage.

When we returned, we read a notice posted by the gardiens, M. & Mme. M., that they would be taking a month's vacation beginning in a week. Later I found that they would be vacationing at Sète, a coastal resort. All workers in France have long vacations, usually at least 4 weeks in addition to more holidays than fingers on your hand with some toes.

We took long naps, with rest in bed, and later out to dinner at the Polidor recommended by Gourmet Magazine 3/2001. Restaurant full of Americans, quite noisy, like a MacDonalds. And the food was not particularly good.

We walked home that night under a bright beautiful sky. We were already antipating the northern solstice - the longest day of the year.

Sunday, June 17, 2001

Got an early start to the d'Dorsay. Because it had been raining, the line was short. We spent the morning, had lunch, and then returned.

While on line at the Musée d'Orsay, we watched the birth of a Pharaoh that begged. Three short men arrived and set up a low pedestal with a "built-in" costume, that is one attached to the pedestal. One of the men with a slight paunch stepped into the costume on the pedestal. He raised the costume to his waste and removed his shirt. He faced away from the people on line and then removed his T-shirt. One of his assistants helped him with the collar and headpiece and straightened and smoothed the fabric. The man's nipples protruded. And there he stood. His cohorts leaned against an outer fence. One of them, the shortest and slightest one, I guessed was the the one we saw near the Louvre.

Marcia and I are compatible when it comes to looking at art; nonetheless, we both recognize our tastes differ and art, at its deepest level, is quite personal.

At the Orsay:

Stopped at Charles de George 1875: Aristotle as a Boy : with his head down in a pensive mood he sits in a chair on which was draped the skin of a lion.

Just a marvelous place. Too bad Everett and Elaine missed it. Glorious walls on the left, light pouring in from the ceiling. Metals contrast with the marble. Incredible - underneath the clock - flat planes and the flying walkways with a break in the symmetry.

Beautifully done. The architect for the original railroad station and hotel was Victor Laloux. For the renovation that turned the station and hotel into a grand museum the architects were Renaud Bardon, Pierre Colboc, Jean-Paul Philippon between 1979-86, plus Gae Aulenti for the final six years.

We continue:

Edouard Vuillard (1868 1940) used solid colors in his painting and achieved perspective in the folds of the fabric by by making slashes and cuts on the exterior lines of the blanket over a woman and on the trousers of a seated man. I'm not sure why it works but it does.

Toulouse -Lautrec: Jane Avril dancing at the Moulin Rouge - her leg swings up in an awkward step; it stops the action - her face - pretty but not involved - it's business here but really the face of a modern Mona Lisa...and in the background two women talking to each other. I liked this one.

Jane Avril Dancing
Jane Avril Dancing by Toulouse -Lautrec

Early Pointillism:

Henri Edmond Cross - a lot work for him but the technique interferes; too heavy without any apparent reason.

Signac - glad we didn't go to the recent exhibition of his work. His brush strokes, indeed, his technique is too regular, with static colors; the elements seem manipulated and the relationships almost mechanical. A "doctored up" show. The Red Buoy, 1895, artificial.

Gauguin: The Blanc Cheval - not as blanc as I remember it but still a beautiful painting - why the whiteness - tangled in

Jane Avril Dancing
The White Horse by Gauguin

the green of the trees and the other two horsemen. I will see if I can buy a print of this one.

Sisley adds a feeling tone of shadow and light when he paints boats.

Mondrain - an early in pastel of boats. He's clearly interested in lines and spaces even then when he was 28. Pastels are so delicate.

A temporary "visiting exhibit of Italian painting between 1895 and 1899:

Nudes called "Sartorio" by Diane Giulio Aristide Sartorio D'eph. (Did I get this one right?)

I see nothing like what was produced in France during those years and what I see is poor, often in quality which is surprising, but mostly in subject matter and treatment.

I try not to spend more than an hour and a half in a museum but I should limit my visit to one particular school, artist, or period. When I look so carefully, the experience is as intense as if I were reading a poem. An analysis of the length of an esthetic experience, the time that one is intensely involved, as it relates to music, art, poetry, drama, etc., would make a good doctoral dissertation.

We ate in tonight. I have a cold. Had soup and salad etc.

In my notes I found an item that referred to a painting of a beautiful girl holding a statue of woman. Other similar figures were on the ground among the rocks. The title was "Tanagra." The artist, Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1890. Who is Tanagra? Was she excavating?

Later on the internet I discovered a few things about her. First, Tanagra (a.k.a. Graea) was the daughter of Aeolus and Enarete. But, more importantly, I also found that the French word tanagréen referred to the "ground-cooked style" of making clay figures of women equipped with long coats with harmonious folds created by the craftsmen of Alexandria during third century B.C. Was what I saw, perhaps, the woman, Tanagra, holding one of the statues of herself?

Monday, June 18, 2001

We're ill. Marcia's tired and cold and I have a bad head cold with a dripping nose. We shopped, ate lunch and slept most of the afternoon.

Checked out the Telecom office. We have to cut off our telephone service and pay our bill before we leave and in order to learn how, I telephoned Telecom to find a local office. Not easy! Eventually I spoke with someone who directed us to an address nearby on Rue de Rennes; however, a sign there directed us to another office for paying our bill. I will check out the place tomorrow. It's important because we want to cut off the telephone the day before we leave but I don't want to be left with a lot of French money. Le Figaro today ( 6/18/01) reported on two sets of figures: Crime and the Economy. The first set reported on the increase of crime in France and the decrease of crime in the United States. In most instances French crime surpassed American crime. Not so with murder. Guns are not as available here as they are in the States.

The economic picture of high unemployment in Europe points up a significant problem for France, indeed, for most of Europe. In France and in the Netherlands as well as in other members of the EC the largess of welfare support is not an incentive to work. The government will pay the unemployed (citizens and legal immigrants) and provide health related services at no cost.

Unemployment in Europe vs. USA
USA 4.2%
Japan 4.8%
France 8.8%
Italy 9.9%
Euro Zone Average 8.4%
In the European Union the UK has lowest unemployment rate.

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

Took medicine today. Marcia went her way today and I, mine.

I went to the Telecom office on boulevard Port Royal. Passed a market. Found the office and learned how I could pay the bill on Monday - with my Visa card. That problem solved.

My stomach wasn't reacting well to the pill I took, so home I went for a short while. Then off to rue de Rivoli where I tried unsuccessfully to find prints of the following paintings: "Confidences" by Picasso, "Figures a bord de la mer" by Picasso, "Dans un café dit l'absenthe" 1876 by Degas, and "Grande paysage d'arbre" by Balthus.

How does the fact that architecture is functional affect its value as art?

Home for two small ham sandwiches, a nap of an hour and then off to Les Halles for another look for the prints. No luck. Bus home through Paris. Place St. André des Arts is sun drenched. Any excuse for a "place." Just a bend in the road so that it creates an island is enough; I love the French.

I look out of the window of the bus as it approaches to St.-Michel. A café on the left called "Le Depart Saint Michel." Looking on the other side I expected to find one called "Le Arrivé" but Pizza Milan is there instead. A shame. Arrival and departure dictate a number of things. The street on the right of Gare Montparnasse is called rue d'Arrivé and the one left, rue Départ. In England it would be the reverse. That's why I am more comfortable in France than in England.

The bus ride continued. Rue Saint Suplice - What a Place! Narrow, sunlit, people all over - standing, talking, walking. Room for everyone. Even in the busiest areas there's always room.

At home Marcia told me about her interesting tour of the Military Museum at Les Invalides. It seems that she really did the tour this time. Last time we touched here and there.

While we had dinner we watched some doves on a nearby roof. For the last few days these pleasant birds have been flinging in a spring way. We watched a number of suitors and we even watched some bird fights in mid-air between, we assumed, competing suitors.

Tonight was different. We suppose we saw the same two doves. The female with her fine graceful neck was perched on one of the structures on the roof of the adjacent building. Her male suitor sat on the gravel top of the roof itself. Then without any "Hello, there." or "Hi!" the male joined the female. As usual, he bowed a few times about 8 inches in front of her. She flew to the molding on the edge of the roof about 8 feet below. He followed her, landing just to her right, close enough to neck which, from my male perspective, they promptly began to do vigorously. Marcia, the realist, explained that they were merely removing fleas from each other. When I, the romantic, protested, she insisted. When I pointed out two beaks joined together which in the avian fashion, is a soul kiss, she said no more. About a minute of necking and then she kneeled and he mounted. A slight flutter. Done. Back to side by side. But no more hugging and kissing. Then, from above us, the sound of small birds. Children wanting to be fed! A second later the couple soared above to take of care of their household.

Off on our walk up avenue du Maine.

Some notes:

Artists originally, and traditionally, have used paint, brushes, palette knives, etc. Now anything goes: feet, a spray can of paint, a broom, motor oil, food, or even feces. Anything goes. But does it, really? (I sound as if art should be created in just one way, don't I?)

Engraving on wood is a work of art.

Jackson Pollock's drippings are good because few people would attempt to cover a large canvas by dripping paint in pleasing curves without distributing too much in any one place. And fewer still would be successful. Nowhere on his canvas can you find an area more heavily worked on than on any other. No reason exists for one curve to be where it is except that it fills the area in a not unpleasant manner; nor are any blobs of black situated in any proximity with another unless, - and this is acceptable - it's almost replicated with another blob nearby. Not too many blobs, though. And too much empty space would be a discord. Art, sui generis, so to speak.

Beauty is another subject. Some folks get a kick out of symmetry while others enjoy more complex designs. And then there are still folks who get a kick from a simple sunset. Such scenes are becoming a bore; perhaps we shouldn't have any more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Some shopping for a ring so that we could put a lock on one of our small bags. Early lunch, nap, and off to Montmartre to see the moulin (windmill). At Châtelet, where we transfer to a new line, the interior of one of the corridors is occupied

A string ochestra in subway
A string ochestra

by an audience and a large group of musicians. The sound of a classical string ensemble fills the underground.

Gorgeous hot day in Paris and we climbed up and up until we found the old mill but it was on private land and could hardly be seen. Nearby we saw another mill over a restaurant. Walked around though and then on down from the "mont."

On the way we passed a shaded square filled with children and then another with trees and a young woman playing an accordion at place Émile Goudeau (corner of rue Garreau and rue Ravignon). Had a coke at a café. Used the toilet which had an automatic light but it went out too soon; must remember to press light again, even if it is on, to avoid a flood.

So many young people? Why? The French are growing kids like the Dutch grow tulips. I've never seen so many children in a city and they're all over - not only in parks, but in museums, on buses, in Métros, at the market.

Such a nice city and we're going home on Tuesday. Marcia helped me remember the line from a World War I song, "How do you keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?"

A thief took my wallet in what Marcia called a "classic ploy" during which I and other were distracted at the top of an escalator. Fortunately, we lost little but two hour's worth tension and some convenience. I had anticipated such an event and had prepared for it; next time I will prepare even more carefully. What was taken was only a credit card, a driver's license, the Friends of the Louvre card, and about 350 francs. We reported the event to the police at the Gare Montparnasse but the officer behaved as interested as the one in New York had behaved when we reported our stolen VW back in 1985.

We called the credit card company and canceled the card and that was that.

Fortunately, I had removed all of the other material (auto insurance card, medicare, blue cross, ATT telephone card, and other ID stuff) from my wallet long before. Marcia did the same. We will use our emergency credit card but carry it when we need it. And we will continue to use our check card to access money only for the five minutes it takes to use it an ATM.

Had a fine dinner at À la ville de Morlaix.

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