I was lucky enough to be in Paris for the very few warm sunny days we have enjoyed over the past month. On a short stay in any city, good weather is very conducive to walking everywhere and soaking up the atmosphere … and the city of Paris is among the very best when it comes to enjoying history, art and cuisine within a relatively small area.
As well as booking four current art exhibitions in advance, I had been invited to enjoy a gourmet food tour in the heart of St Germain by our friend, Lisa Rankin, who runs Flavors of Paris. Lisa’s knowledge and natural enthusiasm for Paris, its history, culture, food and wine, is contagious, and we have already been recommending her to our clients. Even as a food lover who comes to Paris quite regularly, I really did discover some absolute gems in the way of speciality food shops on this recent visit – and I will certainly return to all of them!
On our particular tour, called The Original Flavors of Paris, we concentrated on four exceptional shops in the charming, historic cobble-stone pedestrian way, Cour du Commerce, which runs between Rue St Andre des Arts and the Boulevard St Germain. The famous Parisian restaurant Le Procope (founded in 1686), known as the oldest restaurant in Paris, also borders the Cour du Commerce. The meeting point for many artists and literary figures in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Rousseau and Voltaire, it retains its original charm and atmosphere.
We started our tour sampling delicious bread and patisseries at the renowned Kayser bakery, followed by a very special visit to Maison Brémond further up the road. The very impressive array of olive oils available here, with tantalising flavours (including fruity green, black truffle, chilli flavoured, basil flavoured, and pressed green lemon) … are only rivalled by the choice of vinegars – including balsamic vinegars with apple, strawberry, fig, lemon, peach and apricot, and an amazing selection of other savoury and sweet grocery products.
Another highlight was Un Dimanche à Paris, a chocoholic’s heaven! As well as sampling delicious chocolates and macarons, there is also tearoom here, a boutique, event spaces and a workshop-school. Lastly, we walked the short distance over to the Saint Germain covered market, in Rue Lobineau, much enlarged and more sophisticated since its makeover in 2017. A food market has been in same location since 1486 and became covered in the 1880s. Under its beautiful arcades, it offers a varied and enticing choice of fruit and vegetables, groceries, fishmongers, and stalls selling cured meat and international foods.
We wandered around the various stalls, then chose a selection of delicious cheeses, helped by renowned cheese maker Michel Sanders, and sat at a table outside the wine shop here, Bacchus et Ariane, run by the very hospitable Georges Castellato, to enjoy a glass of wine with our cheeses.
Being with Lisa, who knew all the shop and market stall owners personally and was clearly on great terms with them, just made all the difference to the experience. She had warned me that I certainly wouldn’t feel like dinner … and she was right! I will try her Marais tour next time!
Cost: 99 Euros including tastings, for approximately 3 ½ hours
Musée du Luxembourg, Les Nabis et le Décor, until 30th June 2019
Although familiar with many of the featured artists’ works, I was not so familiar with the actual Nabis’ movement, which made this a particularly interesting exhibition.
Deviating from Impressionism and inspired by the work of Gauguin, the Nabis became fashionable towards the end of the 19th century, when painters (notably Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Edouard Vuillard and Paul Sérusier) decided to abandon their academic training and concentrate on painting more simplified forms, with patches of relatively flat colour. Their intention was to decorate contemporary interiors with an art relating more directly to life, and as such they are regarded as the true pioneers of modern décor.
Photo: Artwork by Pierre Bonnard, Femmes du Jardin, 1891
Much of their work was the result of commissions from friends and patrons, and their output ranged from paintings to wallpaper, stained glass and ceramics. A small, but beautiful collection, the Musée du Luxembourg is exhibiting a variety of their works, collected from around the world, demonstrating their decorative and ornamental ideas, colours and shapes.
Photo: Artwork by Maurice Denis, Juillet, 1892
Ateliers des Lumières, Van Gogh Starry Night, until 31 December 2019
Having seen the Klimt exhibition at the Ateliers des Lumières last year, and found the huge moving, lit up images on large walls and viewed in the dark, both intimate and very impressive, I was looking forward to a similar Van Gogh experience – and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
This new visual and musical production, directed by Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto, and Massimiliano Siccardi, very much demonstrates the richness and depth of Van Gogh’s paintings, from The Potato Eaters (1885), Sunflowers (1888) and Starry Night (1889) to Bedroom at Arles (1889), as well as highlights the interplay of light and shade. It also evokes van Gogh’s highly emotional, chaotic, and poetic inner world, which restricted him as a genius, who very sadly wasn’t recognised during his own lifetime.
Musée Maillol, The Emil Bührle Collection, until 21 July 2019
The Emil Bührle Collection at the Musée Maillol is another ‘must-see’ exhibition if you are visiting Paris over the next couple of months. Born in Germany, Emil Georg Bührle (1890–1956), settled in Switzerland in 1924 and collected (mainly between 1951 and 1956) more than 600 artworks. Around 50 works are on show at this unmissable exhibition which offers an inspiring experience for anyone interested in French art from the late 19th century and early 20th century.
The exhibition includes works by the major Impressionists (Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir, and Sisley) and post-Impressionist artists (Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Toulouse-Lautrec), the Nabis (Bonnard and Vuillard) at the beginning of the 20th century, the Fauves (Braque, Derain, and Vlaminck), and the École de Paris (Modigliani), and, also the art of Picasso.
The background to the collection is historically fascinating in itself with the acquisitions being bought during the war and Nazi occupation, but we learn that Bührle returned everything in 1945, or bought them again from the previous owners. Seeing such a renowned, yet very personal, collection in the charming Musée Maillol seemed very fitting.
Photo: Artwork by Edouard Manet, Un Coin du jardin de Bellevue, 1880
Musée Picasso, Exhibition Calder-Picasso, until 25th August 2019
The Picasso Museum, considered one of the finest historic buildings in the Marais, is always a pleasure to visit, with or without a special exhibition. Dating back to 1656, it was granted historical monument status in 1968. As well as a permanent collection of many of Picasso’s works over several floors, it is also currently hosting the Alexander Calder and Pablo Picasso exhibition. Spread over individual rooms on two floors of the museum, the exhibition of around 120 works explores how each of these different artists, arguably the most influential figures of 20th century art, engaged with the void, or absence of space.
Seventeen years younger than Picasso, Calder first exhibited his abstracts in Paris, in 1931, where he first met Picasso. Although they were never friends, there was a working connection in their exploration of space and absence of space, which both defined from the figure through to abstraction, in their very different ways.
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