Impressionist Works from Private Collections at Musée Marmottan

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Despite the fact that Musée Marmottan Monet, in the 16th, contains the world’s largest collection of Monet’s works, as well as drawings and paintings by Manet, Pissaro, Sisley, Renoir, and Berthe Morisot, it’s a lesser known Paris museum, and under-appreciated.

The current expo, “Impressionist Works from Private Collections”, solidifies the museum’s reputation as a hidden gem.

The show consists of 100 masterpieces that trace the development of Impressionism, from its first stirrings (works by Corot, Boudin and Jongkind explore plein air painting and the play of light in landscapes), through the movement’s high point in the late 1870s (Monet, Renoir, Pissaro, Sisley and others favor locations along the Seine), and beyond, as Impressionists began to pursue new directions, opening the door to modern art. The progression is a perfect lead-up to Monet’s later works, which are on the verge of abstraction.

The show begins on the ground floor, where a narrow hall is lined with the early landscape paintings, and filled with people. The crowds thin when the rooms open up; subsequent spaces give special attention to Degas, Caillebotte and Cezanne. The show ends downstairs, where several rooms are devoted to Monet’s life and his studies of water lilies. Outside the exhibit, part of the permanent collection on the first floor, are exquisite paintings by Berthe Morisot.

The popularity of the temporary expo means that there are lines at the entrance, which you can avoid by buying tickets on-line. When you arrive at the front door with your ticket, look for the sign that says “Coupe-file”.

Until July 6

Have you been to Musée Marmottan? to this show? what are your impressions?

Giverny Update

As part of my research for a spring trip to Paris with gardeners, I recently checked the Giverny website to see what was new. Monet’s home, studio and gardens are closed now, but the website changes often, as does the practical information, such as opening and closing dates.

The site had indeed been updated since my last visit. Navigation has been streamlined—you can plan a visit, buy tickets on line, and find photographs and videos of the gardens more quickly than before.

And speaking of photos, scroll down to the bottom of the home page for glorious new images—photos and videos—of the house and gardens, as well as interesting information about artist residencies that take place at Giverny, and discussion of specific flowers (the latter in French only).

Another improvement to the site is the detail that the secondary navigation makes possible. Click on the “Giverny” tab at the top of the page, and you find beautiful photos of the estate, nicely complemented by text. One page recalls Monet’s planting plans, another discusses his love of Japanese prints.

Select “Monet” and you can read quotations from Monet’s letters to other artists, and a delightful description of the artists and benefactors who have spent time at Giverny (in French).

I’ll send my group to the site before we leave for Paris; with more details under their collective ceintures, they’ll better appreciate being there, and get infinitely more from their time.

Paris for Fashionistas – “Impressionisme et la Mode” at Musée d’Orsay

Impressionisme et la Mode” at Musée d’Orsay is a multifaceted show, featuring paintings by Manet, Monet, Caillebotte and other Impressionist painters; beautifully conserved 19th century dresses from Musée Galliera; photographs and lithographs from Paris department stores; and, to fully recreate the fashion world of the late 1800s, chairs marked with names as if for a fashion show, and quotes from Zola and Baudelaire.

Seen in this context, paintings like Manet’s “La Dame à l’Eventail” and “Le Balcon” take on new life. Works by women artists Berthe Morisot, Camille Corot, Eva Gonzoles, and Mary Cassatt lend female perspectives to the period and the dress. Men’s fashions are treated, too, with works such as Caillebotte’s wonderful “Au Café” and Fantin Latour’s “Un Atelier aux Batignolles”.

The collection brings together custom, culture, fashion and art. It renders the world of the Impressionists not just visible, but sensorial, experiential.

Afterward, shop the excellent museum bookstore for books on fashion through time, mother-of-pearl buttons, and hats by contemporary milliner Marie Mercie. Until Jan 20, 2013.

Giverny is beautiful and easy to reach

Giverny – Monet’s home and gardens – is a treat any time, but recently completed renovations have the grounds looking fresher than ever. The long rows of flower beds in front of the house bubble over with bright colors. Nearby, the water lilies and the pond’s reflections are more subtle, but every bit as beautiful.  Here, you feel like you are part of the Nymphéas, Monet’s largest works.

Getting to Giverny is also easier. Trains to Vernon leave from Paris Gare St Lazare every two hours, beginning at 8:20am. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time (follow the signs for Grandes Lignes), and can be used for up to 2 months. Once the train arrives in Vernon, blue footprints lead visitors through the gare to a bus that covers the rest of the distance to Giverny.

In the past, the shuttle’s timing made it a hit or miss propostion, and a more expensive taxi was the only way to be sure to get back to Vernon in time for the train. Now the train and bus schedules are coordinated, and easy to discern. Ask for them when you buy your train tickets; there are also signs at Giverny.

A bonus, for those who arrive at Giverny midday: a free guided tour leaves most days from the boutique.

Musée d’Orsay Undergoes Renovation

The Impressionist wonder, Musée d’Orsay, has closed its top floors as part of a major renovation. The changes will bring improved lighting, increased security, and better visitor flow when Level 5 reopens in March, 2011.

Major museum holdings are still on display in specially redesigned rooms on the ground floor. Manet’s “Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” and “Olympia” remain at the d’Orsay, along with the large realist paintings of Courbet and the early works of Monet and Cézanne; Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works; and paintings by Ingres, Delacroix, Degas.

About 240 works will travel during the renovation. The De Young Museum in San Francisco will show Van Gogh’s “Bedroom at Arles,” Whistler’s Mother, and Manet’s “Fife Player” as part of its exhibit “Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces From the Musée d’Orsay,” May 22 – Sept. 6, 2010.

A second show at the De Young will focus on “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces From the Musée d’Orsay,” Sept. 25, 2010 – Jan. 18, 2011.

The d’Orsay will continue to hold temporary expos, including an excellent temporary show, Art Nouveau Revival, which looks at the influence of Surrealism in France, psychedelic art in the US, and other art movements on Art Nouveau. Until Feb 4, 2010.