Tuesday at the Musée d’Orsay sounds like a wonderful way to spend the day, so Céline and I bust it over the Seine past the love bridge–where lovebirds pledge their eternal dedication with a lock and key through the Bridget’s wire mesh, their forever love sealed until memories fade and the honeymoon ends–to the old train station turned art museum, its insides the skeletons of modern art’s predecessors, the post-impressionists, the Fauves, the abstract-expressionists.
But, before diving head first into my most favoritest sliver of art history, we must first bypass the Parisian military police, their semi-automatic weapons and fatigues the hallmark of a paranoid society now that the French government decides to act and take a stance in Syria.
And, to be quite honest, it kinda freaks me out a little, bringing me too close for comfort to a person-wielding-death-bomb, even if in the supposed name of my own defense.
No matter, once inside, I lose myself to the beauty of the building, long corridor crescendoing into gilded clock and Chinese shadows, an art piece of its own, and at the other end of the building, the twin clock frames Montmartre’s mound, Sacré Coeur in full view.
Since last here, Orsay has been gutted, revamped, and face-lifted with brushstroke of restrained simplicity, the building’s architecture and organic flow put into favor with a less-is-more-aesthetic.
I am enthralled with how it highlights its oeuvres, a garden of statuesque proportion down the middle, complete with a coy David in boots, meandering all the way upstairs to Manet’s nude picnic, a surprising Monet, Renoir’s garden party, and a host of others I long forget since reprimanded for taking illegal photos–oops!–save for the expo on female nudes that takes us through Degas’ pastels in such beautiful intimacy, it’s easy to fall in love with the female form.
Downstairs, I revisit my senior year art history seminar on Gauguin and Van Gogh, starting, of course, with Van Gogh’s tell-tale dry brushstrokes of Provence, colors of sunflower yellow, lavender blue, sage green, and midnight purple, to Gauguin’s play on symbolism and reality and transcendence with the Nabis, paving the way from realism to abstraction to color bursts, leaving behind the safe and ephemeral and romantic pastels of the impressionists, them content to flirt with light, amorous in how a sunbeam transforms a countryside and sets an ambiance, to metamorphosize the metaphor into the statement, color no longer a hint but a punctuation.
Starry night captures me again and again, as well as Van Gogh’s story-telling of life in Arles via his bedroom, doctor’s house and café, for the strokes pulsate with life as if when he were painting the scene, he was having a hard time nailing down his own vision, unsure of its tangibility, mind already playing tricks with sanity.
We end with Toulouse-Lautrec, his posters the voice of Paris’ vulgar underbelly of another time, today’s eerie predecessors for all things marketing, the painter’s billboard, and just like that, we leave the reverie of a bygone France for the one of today, less ephemeral and intensely more real.