Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Meeting Delacroix

Most artists keep sketchbooks. And they do it in an orderly fashion, dating and numbering them. Then guarding them like the crown jewels, lined up in their studios like soldiers. Some other artists (please raise your hands if you're out there) prefer to sketch on the odd scrap of paper...whatever comes to hand. But really I can see it's not the best way to go.
Monday I decided at last to hop over to the Louvre (not my favorite museum for the crowds) to find out how the procedure to gain access to the Department de Graphiques where facsimiles of Delacroix's Moroccan sketchbooks reside. The Louvre owns three books and chateau Chantilly owns one. The rest were lost when his studio was auctioned off. Louvre information desk told me I must go outside to Porte de Lion, apply in advance and then wait.
In fact I didn't have to wait at all. After filling out some forms, showing a picture ID and writing an incoherent letter of intent in my rotten French I got in immediately! The receptionist giggled at my attempts to spell 'mes salutations distingue' and scribbled the correct spelling on a piece of paper. Quelle wreck! Still the librarian saw fit to let me in. But first you must wash your hands bien sur!
And lock away all your belongings except for pencils/crayons. Papers and iPad are allowed.
The library is tres grand!
The library ceiling is even grander. 
Enfin they brought out the boxed set of 3 facsimiles and 2 books explaining the collection. I had just 30 minutes before closing time to look.
The woman assisting said,
"It's OK to cry on the pages."
Actually it isn't. This is a Very expensive and rare edition published in 1992 and can only be found at auction for thousands of €€€. I used m little business card to help turn the pages to keep my fingers off them(there's natural oils on the pads of your fingers).
Ta Da! The first book of the collection, all of 10 cm wide x 16 cm high.
After seeing so many excerpts of sketchbook pages to actually page through them (very gently) is a wonder.
The mix of writing, watercolor, ink or pencil sketches just flow rhythmically from page to page.
Quite a few pages have no color yet are just as beautifully designed.
The use of space, the repeated images..it takes your breath away.
I attempted at first to record briefly what was on each page but after a while just decided to look. It made me think I too should be working in a sketchbook and not endless bits of paper. They have a tendency to get lost and it drives me nuts looking for them. Plus there is no sequential flow like looking at a book and turning the pages for the next visual surprise.
British artist and friend Ian Sidaway has kept travel journals for decades. Every trip is recorded. Do take a look at his blog Fine Line for his recent Paris sketches.
Thirty minutes of communing with Delacroix and I was walking on air as I left the building in the Tuileries gardens...
It was dark outside...
Looking up the top floor is where the library is...
Suddenly the Louvre likes like my newest best friend. I can't wait to go back and visit with Delacroix again. This time I'll take a sketchbook.

37 comments:

  1. What an exciting and unexpected adventure!
    I love that the assistant said it was OK to cry on the pages :)

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  2. What an amazing adventure...and the beginning of a friendship and maybe of a lovely new habit.

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    1. Thanks Astera for such kind thoughts!
      I hope it will be the first of many visits to Delacroix ;))

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  3. With your background I can imagine how you felt looking at the sketches. Then to come outside and take the special pictures of the Louvre with the moon. Wonderful.

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  4. Good for you not to be put off by a letter of intent in French! That would have finished me off! What a wonderful experience, thanks for sharing it with us.

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  5. Carol, I admire your endless thirst for adventure and expanding your knowledge. I must admit that I could benefit from having a sketchbook, too. I am one of those "random piece-of-paper" artists who have stuff scattered. Love your posts and living in Paris vicariously through you! The photo of the Louvre at night takes me back to one of my all-time-favorite walks. Gorgeous pix! xx

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    1. Thanks Anne for owning up to odd bit sketching.
      The Paris nights are knock your socks off gorgeous aren't they!

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  6. Anabelle12:26 PM

    The people in front of the Louvre puramid look like they're dancing or skating. Wonderful reflections.

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  7. This was the most wonderful post. Please go back, often, and share those pages with us as well as your own new sketchbook. Thank you!

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  8. What a fabulous & exciting day you have had, managing to get into see what seems like the 'holy grail' 'et en plus' one of your favourite artists, fancy you not having a sketch book with you !. I bet from now on, that will be on your check list before you leave home.

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    1. Oh I had a sketchbook with me just not THE sketchbook..one kept religiously for everyday drawing. That's when I reach for scraps of paper.

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  9. I agree, you must have had a fabulous day! Your photos of the episode sure are great (I love your after hours exteriors the most).
    Your British friend's work is very good, too.

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  10. And your pics are great!

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  11. Anonymous5:54 PM

    I am of the scrap of piece of paper club. My sketches are inconsistent. Some ok and some horrible soooo I save the good ones and attach them to pages of an antique leather bound book I bought in France. Crazy huh! Carolyn

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  12. Oh my gosh Oh là là & Wow! So these are copies, but rare copies, I gather. Where are the originals? I would have thought they'd have had white cotton gloves for you. I'm glad to hear that the Louvre is gaining your favor. Would they have let you in if you didn't have PB?

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  13. I just watched a DVD: Paris The Luminous Years (PBS show) Quotes for you: "If I had not gone to Paris I would not be who I am." Marc Chagall
    Paris: "It was where we had to be." Gertrude Stein (1905-1930): A mecca. Still is, no?

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  14. What a wonderful adventure. I am always saying something is not my favorite thing and then suddenly it is my favorite thing. And thanks for the starry, starry night.

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  15. Oh be still my heart. What a wonderful place to go. Yes please go back and share more with us here. I love the sketch book idea. I keep trying to be organized...but those scraps do show up easier then the books. :))

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    1. Some of us are just 'scrappy' i guess ;))
      We fight having orderly sketchbooks too much...

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  16. Your posts are such a delight, thank you! Wonderful to see Delacroix's journals. Love the key where you stow your belongings. I am guilty of not always having a sketchbook, then I draw on napkins in a cafe I go to to write in or squeeze drawings into my purse agenda book. Not satisfactory, and they do get lost.

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  17. I love your posts and seeing those sketch books would have been wonderful. My sketch books don't look like that.

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  18. I LOVE the LOUVRE! A bientot Carol!

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  19. oh Carol; this is PRICELESS.... wonderful beautiful you to share those treasures with us - THANK YOU
    my sketch books never looked as tidy and well ordered as these do.... I also sketched on napkins, 'cartes de visite', over the rim of a music programme - whatever I had at hand....
    this is my favourite (ever!!!) post - Hail Carol :)

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  20. Wow, amazing. You are so fortunate to have seen them firsthand and thank you for sharing with us. xo

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  21. Those sketchbooks are amazing! I have no sense of order/ placement I would love to produce something so beautiful. I really love the fluidity your drawings on scraps.

    I know what you mean about using scraps but there is something about a sketchbook that can sometimes be imposing, the pristine pages taunting you not to make a mistake. Where a scrap of paper has more freedom as it isn't 'best' and there is no commitment.

    Last night I pritt sticked a few scraps in an old sketchbook. It felt wonderfully organised-maybe there is hope for me yet!

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    1. That's a fabulous idea LG!!!

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  22. This post makes me want to carry around a sketchbook and try my hand at being atn artist. Alas, I have no talent for it.

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    1. You CAN draw Sukicart!
      Get a pad of the cheapest tracing paper and TRACE.
      Either an artist you like or over photographs in the newspaper.
      You will be very surprised what you can accomplish.
      I will do,a post soon.

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  23. Oh wow! What an experience. That library is so beautiful, and I imagine only a handful of visitors to the Louvre get to experience it. How special for you to see and touch Delacroix's sketchbooks. They're beautiful objects in their own right. What a skill it is that you can draw and paint so beautifully too.

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  24. I am so happy you shared some pages!!!! We have a library with an amazing collection of rare books and I was very surprised the first time I visited that they don't make you wear gloves, but only wash your hands. I'd heard about the oils, too. But they said people are more likely to damage pages with clumsy gloves on et viola!
    I am in the habit of doing both: working in a "sketchbook" and on scraps of paper, too. You are right. The darn scraps hide in the weirdest places while I spend forever trying to find them. But it hardly matters; I am not in the Delacroix category!
    PS love Sidaway's blog and often wonder how long a page takes with all his line work.

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  25. Ian Sidaway1:05 AM

    What a treat, and thanks for the plug, only pleased to be mentioned in the same post as Delacroix ! I think as regards sketch books its a case of doing what comes naturally. No point in trying to make something contrived. I like your approach and it says a lot about your character. Maybe collate things a bit better in sequence in books. I have always loved the diaries of Peter Beard, the way he amalgamates the written word and collaged images.

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  26. mais vous m’avez fait rêver
    votre post est SUBLIME !!!
    bravo
    cheers

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  27. This was wonderful to see, just wonderful. What a day!

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  28. Oh Myyyyy! You have given me a new goal in life! Next August when we are there, I am going to make the attempt. Thanks so much.

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  29. OMG, it's like you went to church--such sacred images there--haven't visited for a while, Carol--so busy at work, but I thoroughly enjoyed this--thank you for taking me along. Hope you are well, sweet...xoxoxo

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  30. Yes, please show us how to break the ice and start trying very slowly to draw!

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  31. Merci! Merci! I am so glad you took us with you on this journey. You made my day with this post!

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