Paris Excursion: Day II

I awoke on Friday morning at 7:50am, energized and ready to take a shower and proceed eat a hearty breakfast consisting of bread, orange juice, a small pastry, and an endless supply of dry corn flakes. We had been forced to supply ourselves with towels, since the hotel didn’t have any.

The day began with another walk to the Louvre. The morning painting was Rembrant’s Bathsheba at her Bath. What is the relationship between the nude figure and the old woman washing her feet? Why is she wearing jewelry? What’s the meaning of that letter she’s holding?

We were instructed not to read the little information blurbs underneath the paintings, which would have been cheating.

We were interrupted by a woman who was giving a tour. She said that she had skipped the Rembrandt room and 30 minutes later we were still there, so the professors decided to give her the half hour she needed. It’s almost funny to me now that she expected us to move so soon. Most people just look at the painting for 5 seconds, spend much more time reading the little placard, take a picture, and move on. It’s especially painful to see if they use a camera with flash…

Anyway we came back and kept examining. At one point we were read the excerpt from the Bible (which I had not already known) in which King David orders Bathsheba’s husband into the most dangerous part of a battle so he would be killed, and ends with: “But what David had done displeased the LORD.” The somber look on her face suddenly became more understandable…

Then we took just a few moments to compare 2 of Rambrandt’s self portraits. The one on the right was done in his 30’s, the other in his 70’s. We were read a quote from Leo Marchutz (who founded the art school), in which Leo says that the entire surface of a painting must create its own light.

In the afternoon we migrated to the Musée d’Orsday. We were given 30 minutes to explore (as well as choose a painting about which to write later on), and then we reassembled near the entrance. Our professors expressed their outrage that apparently, since the last time they were there (which must have been on the last trip 1 year ago), the walls on the upper level had been painted black, thus dimming the light and creating a black bar at the top of every one of the paintings. Masterpieces were next to “crap”, and things were arranged by chronology even when this made no sense whatsoever. Nevertheless we split into two groups and got to work.

The first painting of the afternoon was one I liked so much I ended up buying a poster of it; Monet’s La Pie (The Magpie). One other student and I were convinced that the horizon was determined by a straightish line in the background, but everyone else thought that this was clouds. Try as I might, I could not find a way to think of the sky as covering the whole background, even if I looked at it upside-down (a common practice in the Marchutz tradition). We agreed to disagree. Someone else observed that he didn’t see the bird until after he had looked around the whole painting, and then figured that it was a human figure off in the distance. Somehow the darkest dark in the painting (by far) doesn’t immediately grab your attention.

Next we looked at a painting that I had actually chosen to copy 2 months beforehand while in the studio. As you might guess, it has lots of snow in it. It’s an Alfred Sisely painting called Neige à Louveciennes (Snow at Louveciennes). Someone mentioned not noticing the distant black figure right away. “Ring ring ring…does that ring any bells?”

Lastly we discussed Van Gogh’s L’Eglise d’Auvers (The Church of Auvers); how the contours are accentuated, the depth, the movement shown in the strokes in the foreground, etc.

At dinner I met some Germans (from Hamburg!) whom I talked to for a little while. They said to meet them on Rue de la Roquette. I said I didn’t know where that was, so they gave me an extra map they had and pointed it out. I went out looking for them and never found them, so instead found some Americans and Brazilians to talk to, as well as a French guy with whom I had a long political discussion. I was still hungry so I got some food from an Indian take-out place and made it back before 1am.

Rembrandt BathshebaLa Pie_Monetsisley-alfred-neige-a-louveciennes-1878Van Gogh_L'Eglise a Auvers  * Note that the first Rembrandt painting is large, while the others are comparatively small.

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