Home > Personal Posts, Theatre > Paintings, theatre, music and books.

Paintings, theatre, music and books.

December 12, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

As the pandemic once again rears its ugly head, I feel like the last few weeks of activities have been on borrowed time. I’ve been to a wonderful museum-thon in Paris with my girlfriends. We managed to pack four exhibitions and a theatre play in a two-day stay in the capital. How I love Paris. There’s no other city like Paris, except maybe Rome.

Our first visit was to my favorite museum, the Musée Jacquemart-André. It is boulevard Haussmann, where Proust used to live and where the great department stores always make me think of Ladies’ Paradise by Zola.

At the moment, the museum hosts an incredible exhibition, Botticelli, artist and designer. I’m not a great art connoisseur but I’ve never stared at a painting in awe as much as I have in front of The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. No printed or screen reproduction can give justice to the colors that leap out of the canvas, the fineness of the fabrics or the details in the hair and jewels. Look at his Portrait of young woman, (La Belle Simonetta in French.) *sighs with happiness*

We had lunch at the museum’s café which makes you think that Robert de Saint-Loup might stride into the room at any time for a chat with Marcel.

Different museum, different painter and a leap across the centuries: a major Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at the Centre Pompidou.

I always find this museum rather cold with its modern architecture and it has the worst waiting line management I’ve ever seen. The exhibition was worth the hassle though as they displayed paintings from all of O’Keeffe’s career. I’ve been to her museum in Santa Fe, so her work wasn’t new to me. We all know about her colorful and flower paintings and her later New Mexico period. I thought about books by Hillerman, Doss and Kingsolver.

Taos Pueblo by Georgia O’Keeffe.

I also enjoyed her New York paintings. They reminded me of Manhattan Transfer by Dos Passos and I wanted to hop on a plane and to go New York.

East River from the Sheldon Hotel by Georgia O’Keeffe.

The day after, we visited the Fondation Louis Vuitton that currently hosts an exhibition about the Morozov collection. It’s like the Barnes collection, for Russia. It is the first time that that this impressive collection of Impressionist art travels abroad. The Morozov brothers, born around the same time as Marcel Proust, bought paintings from all the major artists of the time. I discovered several Russian painters I’d never heard of and was grateful to know, like Valentin Serov who painted this portrait of Morozov.

Ivan Morozov by Valentin Serov

He’s leaning towards us, as if he were going to speak to us. I’d never heard of Aleksandr Golovin, Konstantin Korovin, Pyotr Konchalovsky, Natalia Goncharova or Ilya Mashkov and it was a marvelous discovery.

We went out of the museum, stars in our eyes. What do we owe to these art afficionados who collected paintings and sometimes helped painters survive! I am grateful for the Morozov, Vollard, Barnes or Shchukin of this world. And also to the Jacquemart-André who left their town house and their art collection to be a museum.

Our trip to the Musée d’Orsay brought us to another art collection, this time by Paul Signac. This is him, on his boat, painted by Théo Van Rysselberghe.

En mer, portrait de Paul Signac by Théo Van Rysselberghe

Signac owned up to 400 paintings, thanks to his family’s money and through exchanges. His collection favors Impressionism, Fauvism and Divisionism.

Between the Morozov and the Signac collection, I came across several painting of my favorite area of the French Riviera, the Estérel massif and the Maures massif. It brought me back to holidaying there, hiking in the hills with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean, the scent of warm pine needles and other aromatic plants mixed with the iodine from the sea, the heat of the sun and the sound of cicadas.

Les roches rouges de l’Estérel by Louis Valtat

Although we had been on our feet all day, our evening was at the Théâtre Hébertot to see The Importance of Being Earnes by Oscar Wilde. The Théâtre Hébertot is one of the old theatres of Paris. It dates back to 1838 and was named the Théâtre des Batignolles at the time.

Maybe Lucien de Rubempré and Oscar Wilde went there, and Balzac and Hugo. There’s always a kind of magic to see plays in old theatres, as if the generations of spectators and actors had left their imprint on the walls and in the air.

The play was directed by Arnaud Denis, Evelyne Buyle and Olivier Sitruk.

I had read the play and knew we couldn’t go wrong with Wilde and no matter how many kilometers we in our feet, we wouldn’t fall asleep in the theatre. Happy to report I was right.

Everything was perfect: the text, of course, served by a vivid production and an excellent set of actors. Their acting did justice to Wilde’s sense of humor. He’s quick at repartee and the actors’ tone and acting enhanced the text beautifully. It’s French vaudeville laced with Irish sense of humor and the mix is explosive. I wonder if Wilde thought about The Game of Love and Chance by Marivaux when he wrote The Importance of Being Earnest. There are similarities in the devices used in the two plays: quiproquos, change of identity and the question of honesty between lovers.

We laughed, we felt energized and had an amazing time.

Literature was also on my mind when I went the concert of Stephan Eicher, a Swiss German singer who was very famous in the early 1990s.

His album Engelberg, sang in English, French and German, was a huge success in France in 1991. This was the tour that partly celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of this album and like most of the audience in the theatre, I bought when it went out.

I loved this album and the songs in French written by Philippe Djian who is probably my favorite living French writer. He started to be famous in the 1980s with novels like 37°2 le matin (Betty Blue), Echine and Maudit Manège. The songs Déjeuner en paix and Pas d’ami (comme toi) are representative of the atmosphere of Djian’s books at the time.

I was in my teenage years and Djian’s books were something new. First book with a gay couple in a book whose focus was not homosexuality. They happened to be gay, that’s all. First book with a man and woman as best friends. A lot of references to American literature, happening at the time 10:18 started to publish a lot of American writers in paperbacks, thanks to their director Jean-Claude Zylberstein. On top of this, this friendship between Eicher and Djian, some sort of modern Montaigne and La Boétie. They are still friends and Djian wrote the lyrics of Eicher’s latest album in 2019.

This concert was a trip down to memory lane, a sunny path surrounded by good music, lots of reading and bonding with my Mom over Eicher and Djian. My love for American literature started there, with a French writer who worships Carver and a publisher who brought Jim Harrison and many others to French readers. Maybe it’s time for a reread of Echine or Maudit Manège.

I hope that vaccines continue to do their jobs to give a bit of respite and leave us a rather free access to culture because we really need all the beauty we can get in this world, be it brought by artists born 500 years ago or by contemporary ones. Happy Sunday everyone!

  1. December 12, 2021 at 11:45 am

    Sounds like the perfect weekend! How I would love to go out with friends like this to all sorts of events and exhibitions. I have had to take it quietly lately, with constant colds and flus, but am feeling better this week (first weekend without a constant cough since October). We have two trips to the theatre planned for these holidays (with my older son), so fingers crossed things will be safe. Now that they’ve reintroduced mask mandate indoors, I actually feel more comfortable going out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 12, 2021 at 11:49 am

      I’m glad to know you’re feeling better and I hope you’ll enjoy the plays you’ll see.

      I’ve been to the theatre like, six times since June and we always wore masks. Nobody tries to sneak in without a mask and people keep them on during the show. This acceptance is a relief and our passport to keep theatres, cinemas, concerts and everything open. To me it is a small concession and the ones who are bothered by it may just stay home.

      Liked by 1 person

      • December 12, 2021 at 12:16 pm

        I wish it were like that here, but since July I have been once to a concert (only person wearing a mask) and once to the cinema (me and my friend only ones wearing a mask). Going to see West Side Story in the cinema today, curious to see if it will be any different. (There is no one to enforce mask wearing)


        • December 12, 2021 at 9:57 pm

          That’s a pity really. Wearing a mask is such an simple and easy thing to do.
          We went to a concert in a very big hall, a month ago. We were allowed to take the masks off inside at the time. Everyone removed them when we were seated as we weren’t close to each other. When the concert was over and we were leaving, almost everyone put their mask back on.
          We usually seem to be an unruly people and I’m rather surprised by our discipline. I’m grateful for it because I feel safe in theatres, cinemas and so on.

          Liked by 1 person

          • December 13, 2021 at 11:51 am

            Quite a contrast to when I went to the Royal Albert Hall and every single seat was occupied, so no distance whatsoever, yet no one wore masks!


  2. December 12, 2021 at 11:54 am

    What a splendid couple of days!
    I went to an art exhibition for the first time this year, and yes, online exhibitions are all very well, and don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful to all the wonderful people who enabled us to enjoy them while we were in La Confinement, but there is nothing like being in the gallery, where we can see the paintings in their proper size, amd see the textures and the colours as they should be seen.


    • December 12, 2021 at 10:01 pm

      We welcomed the break of our usual routine. On paper, it seemed quite a lot to do in two days but thanks to pre-bought tickets with a defined entry hour, we didn’t stand in line and waste time like this.

      And yes, nothing compares to seeing the paintings in real life. Especially Botticelli. Have you been to Florence?


      • December 13, 2021 at 1:29 am

        Yes, I have. Only for a couple of days, alas, but it was wonderful. I blogged about it in my travel diary which I just revisited.
        It’s interesting to see how bad the layout is, especially in the 2nd post so I’m glad I have my scrapbooks as a more elegant reminder! But this blog was when I was a newbie to blogging (and before my book blog) and I couldn’t get the photos to align the way I wanted them to. See here if you are interested: https://hillfamilysoutherndivision.wordpress.com/category/destinations/europe/europe-2005/italy-2005/florence-2005/


        • December 13, 2021 at 10:25 pm

          So you’ve been to the Uffizi Galery too. Now I’m thinking about traveling to Florence again. It’s only 8 hours away by car…


          • December 16, 2021 at 2:31 pm

            Oh, don’t, please. 8 hours would barely get me out of Victoria…


  3. December 12, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    Oh I love Georgia OKeeffe’s work and the trajectory of where life took her, what a pity to hear about this when it’s over! I’m hoping still to go up to Paris late December, despite things not looking great. To be in an art museum and quietly contemplate the works is my priority. Thanks for sharing your visit!


    • December 12, 2021 at 10:03 pm

      Sorry you missed it.

      If you make it to Paris and you’ve never been to the Musée Jacquemart-André, I really recommend it. (Buy tickets in advance, though) And the Morozov collection is worth the trip too.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. December 12, 2021 at 7:01 pm

    Quite a programme! There are so many exhibitions I would love to see in Paris at the moment. Those are some nice paintings in your posts, they must be even more attractive “in real life”.
    Regarding the Morozov exhibition, is it the curators who say it’s the first time the collection travels out of Russia? I visited a Morozov-Shchukin exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest ten years ago, although as far as I remember it mostly focused on “western” (mostly French) painters and not so much on Russian painters.


    • December 12, 2021 at 10:06 pm

      A wonderful programme. And yes, there are other exhibitions I’d like to see too.

      Yes, it’s said by the curator. They did a Schukin exhibition a few years ago and said that the Morozov one was the second part of that diptych.
      There were a lot of French painters too but I knew most of them.


  5. December 12, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    Oh, how wonderful! Very jealous and totally agree – I am missing culture big time thanks to the pandemic and would love to be getting out and about to museums and galleries again!


    • December 12, 2021 at 10:07 pm

      I’m grateful for the opportunity to visit museums and see plays again.
      Isn’t everything open in the UK too?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. December 13, 2021 at 2:11 am

    Wow, wow, wow, and wow.

    I have never been in the Centre Pompidou precisely because of the lines.

    Everything here is interesting, but your reminiscence about Djian is especially interesting.


    • December 13, 2021 at 10:43 pm

      Wonderful weekend and there are other exhibitions I’d like to see. Hopefully I’ll go back soon.


  7. December 13, 2021 at 12:06 pm

    There’s not much culture out here on the edges of the world so thank you for taking me on a tour. I do go to galleries sometimes, and pre-covid saw an excellent Monet exhibition during a trip to Melbourne, but it was only on my one bit European holiday, in Venice in particular, that I realised just how vibrant the old masters are.


    • December 13, 2021 at 10:52 pm

      I’m far from knowledgeable as far as old masters are concerned but I love watching their paintings.

      The style I dislike the most is rococo. Boucher? Watteau? Fragonard? Not my cup of tea.


  8. December 14, 2021 at 2:38 am

    Your experience of Botticelli reminds of the first time I saw the Met Museum’s El Grecco’s; no matter how good a reproduction is, it can never measure up to the colors, textures of the real thing, and how all the elements work together. What a marvelous weekend!


    • December 14, 2021 at 10:16 pm

      Yes, the old masters are amazing and the vibrant colors makes you want to stare at them. There’s nothing like seeing them with your own eyes.

      A great weekend indeed. I hope I’ll do another one soon!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. December 14, 2021 at 9:58 pm

    That sounds wonderful! The Musée Jacquemart-André is one of my favourites, as well. I love museums with the dimensions of houses (albeit rather stately ones!), so that you can be close to the paintings and maybe even have a quiet moment with the art. The Lenbachhaus in Munich is another such place, as is the Neue Galerie in New York. I love how you imagine the contemporary world around each place, and the writers connected to them.


    • December 14, 2021 at 10:19 pm

      Have you been to the Musée de la vie romantique too? It’s nice too.
      I love museums in town houses and mansions. I visited the Musée Gustave Moreau for its staircase, not its paintings. (Moreau is not for me)

      I’d like to go to Munich too. And I’ve never been to the Neue Galerie in NY in my three times in the city. I’ll look it up.

      Paintings often bring book memories and I enjoy finding connections.


  10. December 16, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    Such a lovely post Emma! I’ve not been back to the theatre yet and I really miss it, although streamed performances are fun but not the same. I went away with friends this weekend and like you it felt it was on borrowed time. It was great to see them though and we stayed safe.


    • December 18, 2021 at 4:07 pm

      Thank you!

      I hope you’re safe in these troubled times. UK seems ahead of us with the omicron variant. It seems to be a never ending story. *sigh*

      Liked by 1 person

      • December 18, 2021 at 6:44 pm

        Thanks Emma, yes I’m fine thankfully, but so many people seem to have it now, it’s very worrying. It does feel never ending. Hope you’re keeping well and safe.


        • December 19, 2021 at 10:12 am

          We’re fine, so far. 3 jabs and we hope for the best.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. October 2, 2022 at 2:37 pm

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