art/architecture France Narratives

Kismet dans Paris

Sorry for the late posting. Today is my birthday so between work, celebrating with Mexican food, opening gifts (a lot of awesome cooking goodies), and swimming (it’s been over 90 degrees the last two days in Pennsylvania), I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and breath! Although you don’t know it from the title, this narrative is about the day I spent at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, one of my favorite museums in the world. Enjoy!

Paris, France
March 2006

As I stood in the sunlit room surrounded by more than a dozen of the art’s world most famous works, I felt as though I were alone. Although there were scores of people around me, it didn’t feel that way as I gazed captivated at Cezanne’s Apples and Oranges. Deep in the recesses of my mind, I could even hear my third grade teacher, Ms. Seed, the woman who had instilled in me a deep love and appreciation for art, posing the question to me as she had done when I was eight, “What do you see in the canvas? What is it you think the painter was trying to tell the world with his work of art?” No longer was I a spectator of a poster canvas. I was at the Musee d’Orsay, one of the most spectacular museums in the world.

My morning had gotten off to a bad start because I’d had had to stand in line for two hours at the entrance of the museum, an easily avoidable matter had I been smart enough to have purchased the ingenious Paris Museum Pass. However, things were back on track once I was safely inside the walls of the former gare. People visit the Musee d’Orsay for the sole purpose of viewing some of the world’s most exquisite works from the Impressionist period, and yet a visit for the sole purpose of admiring the early 20th century Beaux-Arts building or its famed clock, would be more than warranted. The station, which was built between the years 1898 and 1900, is located on Paris’ Left Bank, and is decidedly Parisienne. While visitors rushed about me, anxious to make their way to the rooms which housed some of the great masters’ works, I simply reclined on a bench and admired the striking room. Though I had much I wanted to see and do during my short time in Paris, taking in and enjoying one of those rare Parisienne moments was one of them.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, my hometown’s piece de resistance, contains some impressive works. Yet, compared to those at the Musee d’Orsay, Philadelphia’s almost seem to be in the minor leagues. It’s only fitting that the country that produced the most well-known and beloved masters of the impressionist period-Renoir, Cezanne, Monet, Seurat-should house such an incredible collection. Although I grew tired after having already spent a couple of hours admiring the works, the sight of Sacre Couer and the Montmartre neighborhood off in the distance provided a bout of energy from the view offered by the museum.

When gazing at Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, I thought how sad and cruel that works like this and numerous others by these talented men and women garnered such little acclaim and monetary value in the times in which they were painted. Vincent Van Gogh felt himself inadequate as a painter and despaired over his works, and yet today his paintings are worth millions of dollars.

Towards the end of my visit, I was startled to discover a painting I had once been well acquainted with but hadn’t seen in over a decade. A reproduction of Berthe Morisot’s The Cradle used to hang in my parents’ bedroom in the house where I grew up. A painting of a mother gazing longingly at her sleeping child, it is one of Morisot’s best known works. She was the first woman to join the circle of French impressionist painters. When we moved during my freshman year of high school, The Cradle was not hung in the new house. I’m not sure what ever happened to it, but when I saw it that day at the Musee d’Orsay, unbeknownst that the permanent home of the original painting was there, I felt that it was kismet. I was thousands of miles from home, separated from my family for five months, and yet here in Paris, I felt a close connection to home, my childhood home no less.

Although I probably could have stayed for a much longer period of time, my body was about to mutiny from being on my feet for so long, and plus I still had much of the City of Light to see. But the memory of seeing the actual painting of The Cradle that Morisot painted 134 years ago remains with me still.

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  • Reply
    June 10, 2011 at 4:50 am

    Happy Birthday!! I loved the Musee d’Orsay!! What fun!

  • Reply
    the red headed traveler
    June 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks Holly! It was very happy indeed!

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