History of Art and Photography trip to Paris
Posted: 28th March 2019
The week before we left for Paris, events were conspiring against us. There was civil unrest as the ‘gilets jaunes’ had set fire to a number of luxury shops on the Champs-Elysées during their weekly demonstrations. The protesters who wear florescent yellow high-vis jackets are part of a movement that began as a fuel tax protest and has now morphed into a wider anti-government movement. Then there was transport disruption as Eurostar operated a reduced timetable because the French customs were on a go-slow and passengers were warned that they should only travel to Paris if their journey was essential. We wondered if we should abandon the trip. However, after seeking the relevant advice and with the support of Mrs Johnson, we decided to go ahead and embarked on (as described by Heather) ‘an awe inspiring adventure’.
We found an empty city with few tourists and an absence of the queues usually found outside the museums. We were welcomed everywhere with open arms. Nothing beats Paris in Spring and it was impossible to quash the enthusiasm of the Wychwood students.
Regina summed up the trip to Paris as colourful, inspiring and enjoyable. She was not only amazed by the richness of the art and architecture but also how she had the opportunity to learn more about French culture, including the importance of eating and drinking as was evident in the many vibrant cafes and restaurants found in the boulevards.
Our first stop was at the Musée D’Orsay, home to the French Impressionist artists, then on to Musée Rodin. This stunning collection of Rodin’s sculpture was Lissy’s favourite. She loved not only the sculpture, but also the tranquil setting of the beautiful house and the gardens. The interior of the house is adorned with highly decorated wooden panelling that echoes the ornate ceilings. Seeing sculpture ‘in the flesh’ enables one to examine the sculptor’s technique more closely. It was easy to identify the contrast in textures in Rodin’s TheKiss from the matt surface of the stone to the highly polished marble emulating skin. The garden café provided the perfect venue for a rest and a delicious hot chocolate as one enjoyed the setting and looked across to the dome of Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower. The peace and quiet of the museum enhanced the experience.
The Picasso Museum was our first destination on Sunday to see the Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso exhibition. It was Calder’s wiry kinetic mobile of the face of his wife Louisa that he nicknamed Medusathat caught Zoe’s eye. The exhibition explored the sense of void that is evident in the abstracted figurative work of these two great artists.
Marsela enjoyed Musée Marmottan, a stunning old hunting lodge near the Bois de Boulogne that houses an impressive collection of Impressionist works. An exhibition of ‘The Orient of Painters, from dreams to light’ was an added bonus.
Our visit on to Frank Gehry’s Louis Vuitton Foundation was one of the most popular. Poppy loved its position in the Jardin de d’Acclimatation, a children’s amusement park which included a zoo. She was amazed by the sheer scale of the building made from glass and the variety of the works displayed in the large open gallery. It was the architecture shaped like an iceberg that wooed Tara as the large glass walls allowed a variety of views including one out onto an area where horses were performing dressage. It was not only the visual impact of the architecture that impressed Heather, but also its juxtaposition with the monumental stepped waterfall and the tranquil stream below. The powerful sound of the running water echoed through the complex curves of the glass structure.
For both Heather and Marsela, it was the installation, Infinity Mirror Roomby the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama,that had a lasting impact. As part of the experience, four people went into the small room that was about the size of a disabled loo. The floor was covered in a sea of white and red polka dot cushions. All four walls were covered in mirrors and after spinning around a few times it was hard to establish one’s bearings. Although one knew that the room was small, the mirrors gave the appearance of the room going on forever. It was both a liberating and yet a suffocating experience; your senses were completely confused by the kaleidoscopic vision.
The building was also a favourite for Jem who found the architecture of fragmented glass forms inspirational as a photographer. Each floor had a different focus, showing different types of modern art from neon lights to a colossal rainbow- chequered canvas. From the open terrace on the top of the building, there were magnificent views of Paris that were enhanced by the bright sunlight. In the basement, there were bright yellow coloured panels with a mirrored side, which reflected the pool of water at the base of the waterfall.
On our final day, it was the peaceful gardens of the Palais-Royal with Daniel Buren’s site-specific installation of black and white columns that provided an aura of peace before we entered the Louvre. The sheer size, scale, crowds and volume are always overwhelming but it is a museum packed with so many important art works that it cannot be omitted. Relieved to escape, we headed up to the Boulevard Haussmann and with a few hours left were able to indulge in retail therapy.
Regina concluded that she had enjoyed the opportunity to visit so many museums and galleries, but also felt that the trip had provided her with an introduction to the city and the confidence to return again as an independent traveller. Tara rated the visit amongst one of her most favourite and one she will never forget.
Dr J Williams with contributions from Heather Fitzgerald, Regina Stolyarova, Alicia Sandy, Marsela Skenderaj, Jemimah Calfo, Zoe Chen, Poppy Kaye and Tara Minoli Taylor