Christmas show windows again, again, again….

So once more there is time to look at the Christmas show windows, once again the ones of “Galeries Lafayette” and the “Printemps”. Here you can compare with the ones in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. I also show the famous Christmas tree, each year different, under the cupola of the “Galeries Lafayette” – see also top picture.

Here is this time a mixture of photos from the two department stores. The ones of “Printemps” were this year inaugurated by Nicole Kidman. I wasn’t present. The crowds watching the windows are important - one expects some ten million people to have seen the windows before the Christmas season is over. 




The Opéra-Comique was founded in 1714, but the present building, often referred to as Salle Favart, is from 1898. Two preceding buildings – on the same spot - burnt down. The ownerships, the regimes… have changed many times, even as late as the latest decades. The theatre has mostly been run independently from the Opéra Garnier (and the new Opéra Bastille), but the Paris opera houses have for shorter periods been under common management. Today the Opéra-Comique is again independent.

The term “comique” has nothing to do with laughter, but the difference with “real opera” is that in the “comique” the spoken drama often is more important… with some music and singing interludes. However, today, when you look into the repertoire of the theatre, this difference seems to have disappeared. Perhaps the Opéra-Comique has a slightly more innovative repertoire.

It may be interesting to know that the premieres of some notable works as “La Damnation de Faust” (The Damnation of F.) by Berlioz, “Carmen” by Bizet, “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” (The Tales of H.) by Offenbach, “Lakmé” by Delibes… took place at the second Opéra Comique (1840-87) and that the present building has seen the premieres of several works by Debussy, Massenet, Ravel, Poulenc…

The present building, which thus opened in 1898 , is very richly decorated, as you can see from these pictures and the top picture from the lobby.  There are some 1.250 seats.



"Place Strindberg" inaugurated.

My previous post about “August Strindberg and Paris” was made as a preparation to the inauguration of a “Place Strindberg” in Paris, just behind the Saint-Sulpice Church. The inauguration took place November 6. Here are some photo souvenirs from the event.

There was a large crowd, of course with a Swedish dominance. You could find some (ex-)ministers, some actresses and actors, some authors.. and a lot of just ordinary people, fascinated by Strindberg.  

There were some speeches, by the City of Paris representatives, by the Swedish Minister of Culture and by the Swedish Ambassador.

Finally, the square name plate and a plaque were unveiled as well as a bust, the original dated 1905, by the sculptor Carl Eldh.   

The Swedish Minister of Culture, Alice Bah Kuhnke, especially congratulated two of the initiators of the whole project, Guy de Faramont - an author who also for many years was Le Monde’s Swedish correspondent - and Jacques Robnard, who among other things has (re-)translated a large part of Strindberg’s works.

This is what the square now looks like, once that the crowd had left.

In the evening, the same day, there was a little gathering in the Odeon Theatre, where some of Strindberg’s texts were read by professional actors… followed by a cocktail. 


Ecole Militaire

For a first time I got inside the “Ecole Militaire”. Unfortunately (or in a certain way, fortunately), the main building was covered by tarpaulins due to renovation work. 

This military school was created in the mid-18th century during the reign of Louis XV – a need to improve the French military knowledge level was clearly felt.
The architect was Ange-Jacques Gabriel  - who was also the architect of the Petit Trianon and the Opera at Versailles (see previous posts), the buildings on Place de la Concorde (see previous posts)…. – and the opening took place in 1760. Here we can see - thanks to Google Earth and some photos I previously took from the Eiffel Tower (see previous posts) and from the nearby Unesco building (see previous post) - that the school finally covers a smaller area than what was originally planned, but with later (19th century) constructed annexes it’s still a large complex.  

Sorry for some not very exceptional pictures from the outside, dull weather, tarpaulins…

Most of the buildings have been modernised inside, rather little of original decoration to be found…

… e.g. the library.

Originally a separate church building was planned, finally a chapel was incorporated in one of the aisles of the main building.

There are some horses around, but just for the pleasure of the occupants. 


August Strindberg and Paris

August Strindberg (1849-1912), a Swedish playwright, novelist, poet, essayist, painter… will soon get a square named after him in Paris – it will be officially inaugurated November 6. Well I think he’s worth it… he spent considerable time in Paris, he was and is still regularly played in the Paris theatres…

He spent some time in France already in the 1880’s, then together with his first wife (Siri von Essen), time shared between Paris and the “artist colony” in Grez-sur-Loing south of Paris (see previous post). He then also travelled through France and wrote about French farmers and peasants. We must know that he had learnt to talk and write in French.

Strindberg was back in Paris in the mid 1890’s (then about 45 and separated from his second wife), Paris, a place where he had gained a bit of reputation – some of his theatre plays had been staged, e.g. “Miss Julie” by André Antoine’s “Théâtre Libre” and “The Creditors” and “The Father” at the “L’Oeuvre” theatre.

However, what perhaps really links him to Paris may be two of his books: “Inferno” (1897), which was written in French (with some help from Marcel Réja, symbolist poet, doctor…) and “Legends” (1898), also partly written in French. They cover a period when Strindberg was obsessed by alchemy, occultism, Swedenborgianism…and showed signs of paranoia…consumed quite a bit of alcohol (absinthe…).  Some critics claim that he was “overdoing” his neurotic problems a bit in his writing.

These novels, “Inferno” and “Legends”, thus talk a lot about Paris. Strindberg visits, walks around, tells us about what he sees…mentions the names of streets, parks, cafés, restaurants…so somehow they are some kind of Paris guide-books although Strindberg of course concentrates on his various obsessions.

During this period he first lived at the rue de la Grande Chaumière, at no. 12 (see previous post). He was a frequent guest then and later in a café, Madame Charlotte’s “Crémerie” at no. 13, partly decorated by Alphonse Mucha, who lived on top of the café. Mucha was introduced to mysticism and occultism by Strindberg. There Strindberg also met and became close friend with Paul Gauguin, who then also lived in the street. Strindberg wrote an introduction to one of Gauguin’s exhibitions. … and they were singing and playing together, Gauguin the mandolin and Strindberg the guitar.

Strindberg was very much involved in scientific experiments and was a fan of the toxicologist and chemist Mathieu Orfila (1787-1853), went to see Orfila’s tomb at the Montparnasse Cemetery (see previous post)…

 ... and then during one of his walks found a “Hotel Orfila”, at 62 rue d’Assas, and decided to move there. (He was annoyed by some too energetic piano players, his neighbours at his previous address.)

He had some other addresses before and later in Paris (the red dots in the "map" below”), but I believe that the two I have mentioned are the major ones. One of the other addresses was close to the Jardin des Plantes, on which he actually also wrote a book.

“Hotel Orfila” was very close to one of his favourite places, the Luxemburg Gardens (see previous posts). He mentions how he enters the Garden via the Rue Fleurus gate, admires the Medici Fountain…  (see previous post)

Other walks include Rue de le Gaîté (see previous post) with a number of theatres, cafés…

… and Rue Delambres (see previous post), where he obviously bought cheese at no. 8 – still a cheese shop, neighbour to the “Dingo Bar” (now “Auberge de Venise”) where one day Hemingway and Fitzgerald met…

Talking about cafés, drinking… one of his favourite cafés was the “Closerie des Lilas” (see previous post). He mentions the place several times in his writings, talks about his special table… Well, he actually still has “his” table there – shared with Max Jacob, André Breton and J.M. de Heredia. I took a glass of brouilly in Strindberg’s honour – he would probably have been drinking something stronger.

“Absinthe at six o’clock on the terrace of the brasserie Closerie des Lilas behind Marshal Ney has become my only vice, my last joy…”  

The “Place Strindberg” will be located just behind the Saint Sulpice Church (see previous posts). Why there? Well, we are in his neighbourhood… and he talks about the Church in “Legends” - actually the chapter “Jacob wrestles” refers to the Delacroix painting in the Church (see previous post). Jacob becomes an alter ego, in Strindberg’s mind illustrating the combat between the artist as a person and “Art”.

I plan to be there for the inauguration. I may tell you about it.  

As top picture I chose to show two portraits of Strindberg by his friend Edvard Munch, three paintings by Strindberg – yes he was an excellent painter – a “selfie” and one photo of him playing the guitar. 


The leaves are getting tired...

Not much time to prepare a post, but here are some autumn colours.


Contemporary art (?) - more...

Referring to my preceding post about FIAC and some temporary art installations, I got a question about what – for a couple of days - was to be found outside the Centre Pompidou. Yes, there was a rather controversial “sculpture” presented by “Atelier van Lieshout”. It was planned for the Tuileries Gardens, but the Louvre would not let it be placed there – some concern about the explicit nature of the “sculpture”… but the Centre Pompidou accepted. (It was removed last Monday.)

I had the intention to visit the Centre Pompidou – it was the last day of the David Hockney exhibition. Well, I gave up the idea. What I find very positive is the fantastic interest in art, what is negative is that even with a prepaid ticket, “accès prioritaire”, the waiting time would have been hours.