Orsay Museum

After five years of blogging about Paris, I have not yet made a post about the Musée d’Orsay. I have hesitated, taking into consideration that photos from the inside are not longer allowed. The rules vary from one museum to the other; photos are e.g. allowed at the Louvre…

I can somehow understand this interdiction. It’s quite frustrating when you reach the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and hardly can see it because of a crowd of people taking photos of the painting and their wife or husband standing in front of it. I think more and more that art in museums is to be seen, contemplated… forgetting about the perfect photo for your blog or your personal album. … and now, if you wish to see e.g. the Orsay collection on your computer screen, you can just go to the “Google Art Project” and find 225 artworks by 130 artists or to other sites about this museum.

But to be able to show the architecture of the interor is something different. I thought that I could be allowed to show one or two photos of the stunning interior of the building, which was first built as a railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. From 1900 until 1939 the Orsay Railway Station, which included a hotel, was used as the head of the railway lines leading to the southwest of France and later for some suburb lines. It closed in 1973. There were some plans to replace the building by a modern hotel, but finally – and fortunately – the decision was made to classify the building and transform it to the museum it is today, opening in 1986.

There is of course, until further notice, no problem with taking photos of the exterior.

The station was originally built for the “Compagnie du chemin de fer de Paris à Orléans”, known as “PO”. You can read the different destinations the trains wen to written on the building – Bordeaux, Toulouse, Limoges… 

... and also the “PO” (which I could use for my personal initials). 

The great clocks can be seen from the outside as well as the inside.

So, today, to see the fabulous art collection, covering the period 1848-1914, including some 5.000 paintings (Bashkirtseff, Bazille, Bernard, Böcklin, Bonheur, Caillebotte, Cézanne, Corot, Courbet, Degas, Daumier, Delacroix, Fantin-Latour, Gauguin, Ingres, Jongkind, Klimt, Manet, Millet, Monet, Moreau, Morisot, Pissarro, Redon, Renoir, Rousseau, Seurat, Signac, Sisley, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, Vuillard…), some 2.000 sculptures (Bugatti, Degas, Rodin…), photos, architectural designs (Baltard, Guimard…), medals, other artwork (Christofle, Gaudi, Guimard, Tiffany… ) the best is to go there (together with some three million other annual visitors), or possibly to look on the Google selection. 



Before “returning” to Paris again, another post from my recent trip to Provence, this time about Aix-en-Provence.

Several cities have the name of Aix, the origin of this name being the Roman Aqua, for water. The Romans looked for hot water springs and gave this city the name of Aquae Sextiae, founded in the year 122 BC by Gaius Sextius Calvinius as the first Roman city in what today is France - after the destruction of a Ligurian oppidum just north of the present city.

Today Aix-en-Provence is a major cultural centre with its important university, its music festival during the summer weeks… and also with different public institutions like an important Appeal Court.

As many cities in the south, Aix-en-Provence has a definite, particular, atmosphere, light… and the high number of students brings a lot of life to the city (also late nights), full of cafés, beautiful several centuries old “hôtels particuliers”, open places, squares… .

I found this particular light and atmosphere also during a visit here in January this year, although the trees were naked.

There are of course a number of churches, including the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour (5th – 17th century)…

… and not only church towers but also the one of the Town Hall from 1510.

As said, the hot water springs attracted the Romans and there are numerous fountains around the city, including very ancient ones on the central street, Cours Mirabeau, covered by moss and other vegetation, and the more recent Rotunda Fountain.

Aix is also an artist city, particularly known for having been Cezanne’s home town. The different paintings he made of his beloved Sainte-Victoire Mountain are especially well-known. The studio he built north of the city centre can be visited (but not photographed inside). The trees of the surrounding little park have grown since.


Les Baux-de-Provence

I have had little time to visit other blogs lately. So sorry! Some travels, a number of friends around… I will try to improve, but the coming week looks also largely “booked”.

So, I was in the south of France, in the Provence area for a couple of days. I have already from previous visits blogged about Arles, Camargue… This time I thought I would add something about what is today a little village with few inhabitants but many visitors, Les Baux-de-Provence.

Les Baux is situated on a rocky beginning of a plateau, dominating the surroundings and has thanks to this strategic situation been inhabited for thousands of years. The name of the village in the old local language referred to a cliff. … and Les Baux has later given the name to bauxite – the ore of aluminum, which was first discovered and exploited in the surrounding mountains in the beginning of the 19th century.

During the Middle Ages, Les Baux became the stronghold controlling the majority of the surrounding cities and villages; a fortress was built during the 11th and 13th centuries and the princes of Baux controlled the whole of Provence during a long period. A lot of fighting about this strategic site took place. The fortress which also became a castle was renowned for a highly cultured court and chivalry until the 15th century, when the last Princess of Baux died and finally Les Baux was attached to the Crown of France, lost its importance and was more or less abandoned. In 1642, the village was offered to the Grimaldi family as a marquisate and Prince Albert still carries the title of Marquis de Baux.  … and today Les Baux survives largely as a tourist attraction.

First a general view of the village with the ruins of the fortress on the top and some views of the surroundings.

Some further views of the village with its narrow alleys, old buildings, chapels…

… and some from the ruins of the fortress, castle, where stairs and some rooms still can be seen carved into the rocks.

When you the see the nearby valley, named “Val d’Enfer” (Valley of Hell), today looking extremely attractive and housing some of the French best hotels and restaurants, it’s surprising to learn that  - with its white limestone rock formations - it obviously once inspired Dante to describe the Hell (Inferno) in his Divine Comedy, here illustrated by Botticelli. 



"Monumenta 2012" - Grand Palais

Since 2007 the Grand Palais (see previous posts)

…. organizes some special “Monumenta” exhibitions, using the full space under the fabulous glass nave. The fifth event, this year, features Daniel Buren, maybe especially known for the Columns at the Palais Royal (see previous posts).

Previous artists who have been invited include Anselm Kiefer, Richard Serra, Christian Boltanski…

… and Anish Kappor (see my post last year).

Some of the pains of glass in the nave had become blue for the event and even the French flag had been replaced.

This is what you can see, until June 21, when you enter.

The view from the top of the stairs allows a general impression.

The transparent circles enable to see the nave in different colours.

The colours are reflected on the floor.

Some people took pleasure in the large coloured space.

Mirrors on the middle of the floor offered a confusing game of what is up and down.

There was some space for refreshments and for buying of documentation.

I normally don’t make any restaurant promotion on my blog, but I must admit that there is a nice place for brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks… at the Palais ((MINIPALAIS), to be enjoyed indoors or outdoors under the arcades.

On my way I discovered a little flower… (Pont Alexandre III (see previous post) in the background).