Saturday, October 03, 2015

Laundresses and Prostitutes

Two exhibitions it would behoove you to see together:
At the musee d'Orsay in the 7th arrondissement
And the laundresses at the musee d'Annees Trente in Boulogne are joined at the hip not just in time and content but by the line RER C, making it a fairly easy run from the d'Orsay to get to Boulogne.
Starting off with the laundress exhibition
This is quite an extensive show
I didn't know laundry was often washed on the rocks under bridges..I guess in case of inclement weather.

The laundresses seem to be having a pretty good time at it don't they?
Was it really the chatty party they show here?
The collection of laundry graphics are superb
Especially for all the bluing products.
Baptismal documents are included in the displays. Baptism gowns, wedding gowns, and shrouds had to be scrubbed and washed to bright white.
The city of Boulogne was the laundry center for the town f Paris.
Laundry works abounded and showed up in early films.
More wonderful graphics of the lovely laundresses
A favorite shot of the whites drying outside on the line in Boulogne.
This print could easily cross-over to the d'Orsay's Splendeurs et Miseres exhibit.
This dance hall could have been there as well. Mentioned in the d'Orsay wall panels, laundresses, shop girls and seamstresses could barely scrape by on their low wages and were often forced to supplement their income by taking to the streets or bordellos.
I missed the Press preview unfortunately so photos are limited but plenty of
Toulouse Lautrec's on the walls. There are many bordello scenes. And portraits of 'Les Grandes Horizontals' Exhibition walls are painted appropriately deep Burgundy red. Even a messy antique bed is displayed to get you in the right mood.
You'll find many fine Manet portraits, including his 'Odalesque', throughout the show.
A rather forlorn Manet café-sitter nursing her absinthe. By the way sitting alone in a café or leaning against a lamppost was a sure sign a woman was available. More info in Elaine Sciolino's story on the d'Orsay show in the NYTimes.
Loved the d'Orsay's absinth glasses(just 7,50€) and the ox blood red cafe cups(26€).
19th century top knots are all over Paris including Lanvin's Spring 2016 collection by the way. Put your hair up PBers. Don't bother looking in the mirror if you want the 'laundress/prostitute' look. For Gucci's 'nerdie-librarian' look add coke-bottle glasses and you're IN.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fragonard Amoureux, Fete du Miel, Les Routes du Miel, September Map

I know it's been awfully quiet at PB headquarters this week. It's that time of the month. Map-making time. I'm finally coming up for air. Angelina has especially created this frothy pink dessert to go with
The Fragonard in Love exhibit recently opened at musee du Luxembourg.
Get out your robin's egg blue ribbons and pink rouge PBers. Jean-Honoree Fragonard (1732 - 1806) painted during the same period as Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (spelled correctly for once).
The 18th century has taken over Paris this Fall season.
Loads of froth and frolicking nudes, even some quite risqué scenes.
Still I love Fragonard's lively, fluid drawings. There are many in the show.
I couldn't figure out was how Fragonard escaped the grasp of the French Revolution unlike Vigée Le Brun? When you visit French cathedrals you're aware of the wreck and ruin during those years of so-called 'Liberty, equality and fraternity'. If you're keen to find out about the inner circle of the Jacobins; Robespierre and Danton, listen to radio BBC4's 3-part historic drama by renown Hilary Mantel. Gripping tales.
I've been longing to visit the Fete du Miel - jardins du Luxumbourg
Twice a year in Fall and Spring they sell the honey from the garden hives and you can sign on for classes at Pavillon Davioud.
I bought a 500g (9€) jar of their honey. No pesticides are used in the city gardens unlike country honey so Paris honey is very pure. Read lots more on French honey at David Lebovitz.
I could have used these teaching boards when I was trying to draw bees in the September street map...more later.
Coming out of the musee du Luxembourg and walking towards boulevard St. Michel I discovered a fabulous photography exhibit lining the outside railings of the gardens.
Les Routes du Miel (the honey roads) just opened September 19 on through January 19, 2016.
At least 80 big boards with explanations in 3 languages of how honey is produced the world over. I did not miss a single caption. Absolutely fascinating and the photographs are magnificent.
Photographer Eric Tourneret spent 10 years traveling around the world gathering information. There are bee hives on Notre Dame! This is a smashing don't-miss exhibition if you're coming to Paris. Plus no lines and it's free. Maybe the most exciting I've seen this year.
If you thought I didn't get to church this week (I've been averaging 3 a week) you'd be wrong. I took an hour off from mapping to tour Notre Dame with NYU Medieval art historian, Deborah (in the rain but how many times so you get a chance like that?). One important fact I want to share with you. Walk around the outside of the church before you rush inside, even if it is raining. You'll get a much better sense of it's structure. Inside and outside are connected after all.
Paris was buzzing Sunday. It was no-car zone day almost everywhere. Streets were jammed with walkers, scooters, bikers and brides. Perfect weather too.
Not one person on Ile Saint-Louis was without an ice cream cone in hand, myself included (fraise-pistache).
On to the dreaded map of rue des Martyrs. I could have used this detailed bee reference.
My main source of reference besides Elaine Sciolino's terrific book, THE ONLY STREET IN PARIS, was a vertical Japanese map of rue des Martyrs. Should I draw the the map vertically? The copy shop kid said, "No way!"
My other inspiration source - a page of engravings of French professions (glass bottle seller, sweets, tailor etc.) I spotted it in Maille mustard shop in the Louvre. I stole a shot when no one was looking. Rue des Martyrs is a grand mixup of artisans old and new, patissieres, waffle-makers, gold-leaf experts.
Voila. Naturally my first effort didn't satisfy me. Too much squiggly printing. A re-do drawing finished just before the copy shop closed on Saturday. Your Paris Street maps are shipping out Monday PBers c/o la Poste. Or subscribe here.
My favorite Fragonard painting was in the Luxembourg show from the New York Met. It's called "The Letter".

Monday, September 21, 2015

Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun - Grand Palais

The first French retrospective of portrait artist, Elisabeth Louise Vignée le Brun (1755-1864) opens Wednesday at Grand Palais - 130 works.
It's on till January 11, 2016
Clever Vignee Le Brun painted many self-portraits early days in her career - perhaps the first 'selfies'?
Her father, a pastel artist of some renown, taught her how to effectively use her tools.
Though he died when she was just 12, her path was chosen. She studied diligently the work of many artists of her time and in 1776 married Jean-Babtiste Pierre le Brun, important gallery owner of his generation(clever girl again). He continued her artistic education.
I was smitten with her repeated use of robin's egg blue throughout her early portraits.
Such a becoming color makes the sitter's cheeks look fresh and rosy.
A lovely pet portrait.
Certainly a sketch or etude. Le Brun began by doing self-portraits and portraits of her friends, mainly of the bourgeoisie. Word of her talent spread and Queen Marie-Antoinette summoned her to paint herself and her family and her reputations was established among the aristocracy.
Vigee Le Brun was also known for her paintings of 'maternal tenderness'.
'Since the Royal Academy was founded in 1648, under the Regency of Anne of Austria, only a very limited number of female artists had been admitted. As they were not allowed to draw nude males in life classes, they were excluded from the most esteemed genre, history painting, which required a perfect understanding of anatomy and the assimilation of gesture codes. Therefore, Vigée Le Brun concentrated on portraits, despite some very fine incursions into history and genre paintings. Her desire to break away from the constraints imposed upon female artists enabled her to develop very personal techniques and aesthetic criteria. She mastered the science of colours and invented a whole range of poses and costumes that brought great variety to her portraits and improvisations.' More info HERE.
The exhibit covers 2 floors. take the stairway up on the right
So as not to miss the smashing view of the Grand Palais arcades.
The Queen en famille. Red became dominant in her color palette.
When the Revolution took over, Vigee le Brun had to flee for her life.
She spent 12 years traveling around Europe, even to Russia, before returning to France.

Lovely small pastel landscape sketches..
Vigee le Brun knew how to capture those Paris clouds.
I looked high and low in the Grand Palais gift shop for some robin's egg blue silk ribbons. Dommage
But they missed out on that detail.
They also missed out on pastel-colored meringues.
September 23 - January 11 2016 Elisabeth Vigee le Brun - Grand Palais.
More photos HERE.
Blue and pink Kitty portrait in the Metro yesterday.