Holiday break

Yes, time to take a little break. I plan to be back of course, in the beginning of 2015.

In the background you have a glimpse of my 96 posts (97 including this one) this year.  Adding my previous blog and since spring 2007 I have made some 1.100 posts. I appreciate a lot noticing a steadily increased audience with a peak of about 90.000 page views in October, but I appreciate especially all new friends blogging has brought. I have even had the privilege to meet many of you personally, to visit some of you, to travel with some of you… So, let’s wish ourselves a continued good blogging year in 2015 !!


Place de la Concorde decorations

A day with very mixed weather and heavy winds - all the chairs of the Tuileries Gardens (see previous posts) were empty - I crossed the Place de la Concorde (see previous posts) …

… and thought I should have a closer look on the two fountains, looking very similar to each other but supposed to be different. One, the northern one, is dedicated to “River Commerce and Navigation” and the southern one to “Maritime Commerce and Industry” – whatever difference this really means. They have been here since 1840. A reason for the naval aspect of the fountains was obviously the Ministry of Navy  building (Hôtel de la Marine) overlooking the Place since the middle of the 18th century (see previous post). The design is by Jacques Ignace Hittorff (1797-1867). I talked about him in a previous post, referring to the number of projects where he was involved (Gare du Nord, the buildings around Place de l’Etoile, the Cirque d’Hiver…).

Twelve different sculptors worked on the statuary of the fountains.

So where are the differences?

I noted that the front, lower row, statues are exactly the same in both fountains (the northern one on top, the southern one below)...

… but when it comes to the second and third rows, there are actually some differences.

Anyhow, whatever the theme and the slight differences may be – or not – the fountains are beautiful, even more so at night and when the water jets are in operation – see an old picture on top.

Also initiated by Hittorff are the the eight statues (four different sculptors) you can find in each angle of the Place, each representing a French city. Someone had put red noses on two of them.

To finish with the decoration of the Place – of course not neglecting the obelisk in the middle of the Place (see previous post) – the Marly Horses (Chevaux de Marly) should also be mentioned. There are four of them, originally created for the suburb Marly Castle in 1745, transferred here in 1794, but because of deterioration replaced by copies in concrete in 1984. The original marble ones are preserved at the Louvre Museum. 



Picasso Museum reopened

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Paris Picasso Museum opened to public again at the end of October, after five years of renovation – the double in time and costs of what was planned.

One may ask the question, why this 17th century building in the Marais – Hôtel Salé - was chosen for the Picasso collection. It took six years to prepare the first opening in 1985 and now another five years to remodel and create more space. It has obviously been a difficult task to preserve some of the old classified interiors and at the same time create space, making the art visible. A simpler, modern, building, more adapted to Picasso’s art might have been a better – and cheaper solution? Anyhow, much more space has now been made available to accommodate the world’s biggest Picasso collection, with some 500 Picasso works exhibited, based on donations (tax issues) by Picasso and his heirs – and you can also see part of Picasso’s private collection – which included Corot, Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Matisse, Renoir, Le Douanier Rousseau, Chirico, Braque, Giacometti...  

You may have expected a chronological presentation (like at the nice Picasso Museum in Barcelona) – the early years followed by the blue and rose periods, the African-influenced period, by the cubism… but the logic here is often different, more following themes, meaning that a painting from 1895 may be the immediate neighbour of one from 1971. Some people were accompanied by guides. It may be a good solution for the understanding of the presentation.

You are allowed to take photos and I took many, but as most of the art is protected by glass, the reflections make it rather impossible to obtain decent pictures. Anyhow, it’s easy to find good illustrations on the net…

One detail:  You can find the African masks, which we also can see on a photo taken in his little workshop at Bateau Lavoir (see previous post) and which inspired his African period - and the creation of what may be considered as the first cubism painting, from 1907 (not here – at MMA), known as the “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” – actually first called “The Brothel of Avignon” referring to an address in Barcelona, Carrer d'Avinyó.

I wish to draw your attention to the fact that although the official closing hour is 6 pm, rooms start to get evacuated at 5:40 pm – I could not visit some last rooms.  


Eiffel Tower - glass floor

What you see above are my feet on the new (solid) glass floor of the first level of the Eiffel Tower. We are - only - about 1/6 on the way to the top, but there are anyhow some 57 m (187 ft) to the ground.  The glass is - almost – transparent. 

Here you can see the limited parts of the floor which offer the pleasure to look down on the people queuing downstairs. 

The first floor has just finished a two-year (€ 30-million = $ 37.5-million) makeover. Until February 15 you can even do some ice-skating there.

Although it’s not so high up, there are some interesting views. If you wish to see some photos from the higher levels, you can have a look on my preceding nine posts about the Tower.

I went there on a Tuesday morning with fairly few visitors. Anyhow, look at the difference between the queuing to the South entry where you have to use the stairs (about 350 steps to the first floor, a bit over 700 to the second floor…) and the queuing to the North entry - with lifts.  


Sankta Lucia - Saint Lucy

Last week in Paris was rather Swedish with the visit of the Royal couple (see preceding post), although news media would certainly pay higher attention to a British, U.S…. state visit.  To end the week, there was another event, which actually takes place every year - the celebration of “Sankta Lucia”, Saint Lucy. Logically it should be celebrated December 13, but there was an early start this year, December 5. Normally there would be a reception at the Swedish Embassy, but, as it's under restoration, this year there was a more open invitation to the Sainte Clotilde Basilica.

The singing is performed by young girls (and a few boys) from the Swedish School and the Swedish Church. They will perform several more times, including in the Swedish Church on the correct date, December 13.

Before talking about the concert, just a few pictures of the Sainte Clotilde Basilica, a neo-gothic church from the 19th century, in the 7th arrondissement, close to the Parliament, some ministries and embassies.

The church was more than full, there was a short welcome speech by the newly appointed Ambassador, Veronika Wand-Danielsson… and then arrived Saint Lucy.

After the singing we were all invited to a glass of “glögg” (hot mulled wine) and some “pepparkakor” (ginger snaps). We were quite a crowd. 

I wrote about the Saint Lucy singing already five years ago (here) – with a link to YouTube if you would like to hear the Saint Lucy song - and there I also said a few words about the history behind this celebration and why it takes place December 13 rather than December 21, considering that the meaning is to bring light to the shortest day. (The reason is the switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar during the 16th century.)


Swedish flags

A lot of money has been spent on Swedish flags for a two-day state visit by the Swedish royal couple, December 2-4.

Around the Champs-Elysées…

… around the Elysées Palace.  

... and the Town Hall.

Related to this visit you can also find in the Palais Royal garden a temporary (December 3-7) installation referring to the northern lights, made of 35.000 (Ikea) LED lamps. 

Here are some pictures “stolen” from Le Figaro. The royal couple was invited by Mr. Hollande (I was not) and those of you who know something about football / soccer will recognize the player they met at the Parc des Princes stadium. 


Edouard Manet

This will be about Edouard Manet (1832-1883). The photo above is from his grave at the Passy Cemetery (see previous post).

I will somehow try to make a chronological / geographical tour of his life – in Paris. He travelled quite a lot, spent summer holidays elsewhere…, but somehow most of his works were certainly brought back to his different studios, where he finished them, kept them, tried to sell them…

This is as how I have managed to trace places where he lived (to the left) and where he worked (to the right). It has not always been easy, as street names and numbering often have changed, many of the buildings have been replaced…

I have more or less neglected the first years of his life. However, a few words: He was born to fairly wealthy bourgeois parents, on the left bank, now rue Bonaparte. (One detail: His mother was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, my own birth place. Her father worked then as a diplomat in Sweden, got to work closely with the newly nominated heir of the Swedish Crown, Count Bernadotte, who became her godfather and she got the name of Bernadotte’s wife, Eugénie-Désirée.)

Manet made short “normal” studies, started to go to art schools at the age of 13. At the age of 16 he made a trip on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro, then failed twice to join the Navy… and started his artistic career. In 1861 (age 19), he got two paintings accepted to the “Salon”, the portrait of his parents and “The Spanish singer”. He had then already painted “The Absinthe Drinker”, but it was refused for the "Salon" and finally, after a number of modifications, sold in 1872.

At the age of about 20 he moved to a studio, where many of his most famous paintings were to be made, including “The luncheon on the grass” and “Olympia”, both from 1863. The first one was rejected by the “Salon”, but exhibited at the “Salon des Refusés” (Salon of the rejected). “Olympia” was exhibited at the “Salon” in 1865, creating uproar. The painting was finally purchased by the French government seven years after Manet’s death after a public subscription organised by Claude Monet. “The Balcony” is from 1868 and was presented at the “Salon” in 1869. We can see some of Manet’s friends: Berthe Morisot (I will revert to her) sitting, the violinist Fanny Claus standing and the painter Antoine Guillemet.  

It was not easy to find where the above studio was situated - once again changed street names and numbers -, but I’m rather convinced that this must be the one, now 8 rue Médéric. The studio should have been on the back side with light coming from the north-east. I feel that this is somehow proved by the Google Earth helicopter view.  

Addendum December 9, 2014: I had the chance to see someone open the door to this building today and I could take some pictures from the interior court - see below. The information about the whereabouts of this studio is quite contradictory, but I'm rather convinced that it must have been here. I would be happy to see some comments and additional information, especially if someone has some documented information. 

A little parenthesis: We are very close to where, some 15 years after Manet’s departure, the “Statue of Liberty” was created, before being put in pieces and shipped to New York (see previous post).

Back to the studios and the chronology! Manet who during many years gave his parents’ address (rue de Clichy), obviously for a period lived on Boulevard des Batignolles, but then moved more permanently to Rue de Saint-Petersbourg. Once again, the street numbers have changed and do not correspond to the present ones. He also took different studios on the street, one for a longer period at no. 4. It’s indicated that he lived his last years at no. 39.  

His last years, he obviously took different studios on the nearby street, Rue d’Amsterdam. He had then difficulties to walk, painted a lot sitting. We can see the portrait of his lifetime friend Antonin Proust, of Georges Clemenceau and the famous “Un bar aux Folies Bergère” (A bar at the Folies Bergère) from 1882… Regarding the asparagus paintings: He felt that he had been overpaid for the first one and offered an extra one, with one asparagus – free of charge.

Manet did not consider himself as an impressionist, but certainly influenced them … and was influenced by them and had many friends among them. Just have a look on this painting and compare it with Monet’s “Impression, soileil levant” which gave the name to impressionism (1874), both painted around 1872-73.

This may bring us to talk about this friendship (I already did, e.g. in this post). In the beginning of the 1870’s Manet was a frequent visitor to “Café Guerbois” on Avenue Clichy, where he met Degas, Renoir, Monet, Sisley, Cézanne, Pisarro, Bazille… Zola and the photographer Nadar, who offered his studio for the first impressionist exhibition in 1874. Today the place is a mens’ clothing shop. To the left of this café was the “Père Lathuille” restaurant, which Manet and others also frequented. Today it’s a cinema. To the right of the café was the “Hennequin” shop where the artists could buy paint and brushes. I was there to take some photos the day it closed (end 2010). Today it’s a sports shoes shop.

Another proof of the close relationship between these artists are the paintings from two studios: One was on Rue la Condamine (neighbour to my favourite street art gallery), where Fréderic Bazille had his studio. On his painting from 1870 we can see Manet, Monet, Renoir… and Manet added Bazille on the painting. Bazille died later the same year in the Prussian war. The other painting we see here, by Henri Fantin-Latour, also from 1870, is referred to as “Un atelier aux Batignolles” (A studio at..). We can see Manet painting, with Monet, Renoir, Zola, Bazille… in the background. Has it been painted at Manet’s studio Rue Médéric? Today the Batignolles area refers to a more restricted area, but during Manet’s time, what we today refer to as the Monceau area, was a combination of Batignolles – Monceau.  

Manet and his friends were later more frequent guests to “Café La Nouvelle Athènes” on Place Pigalle. The building is gone and there is now a bio-supermarket. On this place is also a building (“Folies Pigalle”), still there but hidden by additional structures. It used to be a place for artist studios and was also where the young Manet’s art teacher, Thomas Couture, (with whom Manet was not always too happy) had his school.

A few words also about three women, linked to some of Manet’s life and most famous paintings:

The lady who appears on “The luncheon on the grass” is his wife, Suzanne, born Leenhoff, but the face of the lady is of Victorine Meurent (see next paragraph). Suzanne was an excellent piano player and was engaged to teach Edouard and his brothers. She gave birth to a son, Léon, in 1852 (we can see him on many of Manet’s paintings) – the father being Edouard or … his father, or…  Edouard and Suzanne lived together, brought up Léon together and finally got married in 1863. They seem to have had a good relationship, she being quite tolerant with Edouard’s “adventures”. Maybe her face wasn’t that beautiful? We can see a photo… and on the Degas painting we can see that her face has disappeared.  – obviously Manet was not happy with the result.

Victorine Meurent, whose face we can see on the preceding painting, posed for the “”Olympia”. She was the model for many artists, including Degas, but gave also guitar and violin lessons. We can see her on many Manet paintings. She later became a very good painter, exhibited at the “Salon”, but hardly anything is left to be seen.

Berthe Morisot who is sitting on “The Balcony” also became an excellent – impressionist – painter. She married Edouard’s brother Eugène.

What did Edouard Manet look like himself? Here is a photo by Nadar and some of many paintings by himself and by many of his friends.

Edouard died at the age of 51. He had contracted syphilis with some side effects, his left foot was amputated because of gangrene eleven days before his death. He’s buried at the Passy Cemetery (see previous post) together with his wife, his brother Eugène and the latter’s wife Berthe Morisot. His bust is made by his wife's brother (who also appears on the painting "The Luncheon on the grass"), 

Some maps to explain the geography of the places we have talked about, including one based on an 1860 street plan.

I also add one, more detailed for the area around Rue de Saint-Petersbourg, in the middle interrupted by Place de Dublin, where Gustave Caillebotte (see previous post) in 1877 painted his famous “Rue de Paris, temps de pluie” (Paris Street, Rainy Day). Caillebotte was another of Manet’s friends and helped him – and many others – financially. He bequeathed 68 paintings (whereof 4 by Manet) to the French government, which refused 28 (whereof 2 by Manet).