Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Musee D'Orsay: Where Have You Been All My Life?

Central Hall of the Musee D'Orsay
Everybody who's been to Paris tells me the same thing.  The Musee D'Orsay is SO much better to visit than the Louvre.  Well, I'm a contrarian.  When "everybody" tells me I should like something, that's usually a signal that I will not like it.  Well, this time, everybody is right.  The Musee D'Orsay is awesome.  It is the best art museum I have ever visited.  Anywhere.

Law enforcement presence has visible at Musee D'Orsay RER stop.  I'm not sure if the heightened security was due to the Euros or the previous day's semi-nasty protests in this area, but the military was out.  And, added bonus, I finally got to see some berets in France.

The Musee D'Orsay is just a few feet from the Musee D'Orsay RER stop.  Nice how that worked out.  Considering that the Musee D'Orsay building is a re-purposed train station, it is fitting that a real train and not a mere Metro "light rail" car would stop here.

Even better:  no visible lines out front, unlike the mob scene at the front of the Louvre 48 hours earlier.

And the Musee D'Orsay has a statue of an elephant in the front.  This is really getting off to a great start.

The central hall is, I would say, cavernous.  You would not think that an art museum would fit nicely into a huge train station, but they have designed the space well.  The central hall is almost all statuary, so they can allow natural light to flood in.

Here's a Statue of Liberty.

Here's Napoleon on a horse.

Here's that nasty, evil, hell-imprisoned Count Ugolino, once again eating his children.  This take is from the artist Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux.

Here's another view of Ugolino, with a painting of a Roman orgy scene (the title references "decadence") in the background.

And I believe this is the same statue found at the entryway to Luxembourg Gardens.  There seems to be some repetition in Parisian statuary.  I'm not complaining.  Just observing.

This is a very nice statue of a boy with his dog.  Not just any boy;  not just any dog.  Le prince imperial et son chien Nero.  Also by Carpeaux.

Selfie with Ugolino and a Roman orgy painting in the background.

As expected, given the time period covered by the D'Orsay -- generally 1850 to 1910 -- which means absolutely nothing from the Modern and (shudders) Post-Modern eras -- the D'Orsay had some Corot.

This is Le Moulfin de Saint-Nicholas lez Arres.

And this one is Une matinee, le danse les nymphes.  Unlike the Louvre, which drowned me in an ocean of Corot, the D'Orsay had only a few Corot, but these are major Corot works.

Speaking of major works, I observe one next to the Corot.

Jean-Francois Millet's famous "The Gleaners."  And just a few feet away is another major work:

"Les Fugitifs" from Honore Daumier.

I really liked this next series of work from Antoine-Louis Barye, who I believe also did the Napoleon astride a horse that we saw earlier.  This is La Paix (Peace):

This is La Guerre (War):

And these two are La Force and L'Ordre.

Kind of right-wing sentiment coming from me there.  But the series did include Peace, too  It's just that Peace is out-numbered by War, Force and Order.

This was a weird one:

The name of this is Dante and Virgil.  And my thought was:  Why are Dante and Virgil trying to eat each others' faces off?  Then I overheard someone talking pointing out Virgil in Roman garb and Dante dressed appropriately for a medieval Italian, standing right behind the two gentleman who are eating each others' faces off.  This is a scene from Dante's Inferno.  Virgil was Dante's guide through Hell.  This is Hell.  Which is where you would expect to find two guys trying to eat each others' faces off.

This one was a weird one, too:

Cassandre by Max Klinger.  Black sculpture ... except for the blood red eyes!

This one is called "Wheel of Fortune."  It depicts a woman spinning a wheel of naked men.  I don't remember anything like this when Pat Sajak and Vanna White were around.

The next stop was the Van Gogh room.

Starry night.  Yes, there was a crowd in front.  But the crowd was manageable.  And no one was clogging up the exhibit taking selfies here.

There were so many Van Goghs here that some very important works were ignored by the crowd.  Starry Night.  The self-portrait.  The two faceless peasant reclining in a haystack (you would know the one if I had taken a decent picture of it) were looked, but this one was all but ignored.

Mademoiselle Gachet In Her Garden At Auvers-Sur-Oise.  It has its own frickin' Wikipedia page.  Since everyone else was ignoring Mademoiselle Gachet, I could look really close and get my face right into this Van Gogh.  It was fascinating.  I knew Van Gogh slathered the paint on thick.  It was his trademark.  But looking at it sideways I could see the uneven-ness of the thick slathering, such that gobs of paint would stick out in place so much so that they actually would cast shadows that would be part of the canvas.

This is what I wanted the Louvre to be.  Famous recognizable paintings at every turn.  The Louvre killed the D'Orsay in raw numbers, but the D'Orsay had greater quality.

And then I went up to the Fifth Floor.  For starters, the view was great.  Squint (or enlarge the picture) and you can see Sacre-Couer in the center, looming large over the city.

Then the hits just kept coming.  A crescendo of major pieces from the major artists of the latter 19th Century.  Here are several canvasses from Monet's series of paintings of the Cathedral at Rouen.  This was a study in subtle differences of light and shade, critical to the impressionist movement.  The "How to Look at and Understand Great Art" series told me that Monet would carry multiple canvasses to the cathedral each day and change which one he was painting if the light changed on him during the day.

And here's Cezanne:

This is his "Le Golfe de Marseilles vu de L'Estaque," noted from how the foreground and background don't really work toegther.  It's an intentioanl failure of perspective that was a pioneering move away from realism.

I don't believe this is a major Monet, but I like it anyway.  It's "Un coin du appartement."  I like the two-tier effect.

And here is Manet (not Monet) with his famous Bow Wow Wow album cover:

Actually, it's "Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe."  It was recreated for that Bow Wow Wow album with "Chihuahua," from back in my day.

There were so many more major works, but way too many of them were Degas and his ballerina fixation paintings.  Let's move on.

You know you're in Europe when you have a group of schoolchildren sketching pictures of a sculpture of a naked man,

Near the end of the tour, I figured out why I loved the D'Orsay so much.

Bottom right corner.  The D'Orsay has banned selfie-sticks.  These were everywhere at the Louvre and I am not kidding when I say that the lack of selfie sticks enhanced the art-viewing experience at the D'Orsay.

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