Sunday, January 29, 2012

American Art at the Louvre

A new exhibit at the Louvre centers around American Art -Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape painting. Running from January 14 to April 16  the Louvre museum is showcasing Thomas Cole, an early 19th century British born American landscape painter. Five works are on display-- one of which is owned by the Louvre-"The Cross in Solitude"  and the others were drawn from the collection of three American partner institutions-- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the High Museum of Art and the Terra Foundation for American Art which contributed a scene form the "Last of the Mohicans".  Thomas Cole is considered a pioneer of the the Hudson River School of painting and is known for his portrayal of dramatic and untouched American landscapes and wilderness. The small exhibit will travel to Atlanta and Arkansas later this year.  At the Louvre, this will be the first  of four other exhibits of American art that will take place in the next four years focusing on themes such as scenes from daily life and portraits at the time of the American Revolution. The museum endeavors to increase French public's knowledge and awareness of early American art.  Of note, the Louvre owns only 4 American paintings out of its 4000+ permanent collection.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Paris flood of 1910-when Paris looked like Venice

Rue de Seine
Photo: Chevojon/BHV (G Leyris)

On January 21 1910, the waters of the seine river started to rapidly rise above normal levels following weeks of heavy rainfalls. Heavily saturated soil could not hold any more moisture thus provoking runoffs in the seine tributaries-the Marne and Yvonne and other streams. The massive volume of water reached the Seine which grew rapidly.  Overnight, it jumped ten feet above normal reaching up to the shoulders of the Zouave (a statue of a soldier under the Alma bridge). The water of the Seine started to  overflow Paris ' sewers and seep into subway tunnels, basements and cellars.  Paris streets soon turned into a lagoon. Ground floor apartments were submerged by the muddy waters while many Parisians were trapped in upper floor dwellings.  Rescuers and those who needed to go out for food supplies or to get to work used canoes and improvised rafts; a network of elevated wooden footbridges were hastily put together to keep pedestrians dry.  In the devastated city, Parisians rallied to help each others and keep the city functioning.  The flood lasted about 10 days but it's memory is still present in the Parisian's consciousness. When you wander around Paris streets today your are often reminded of this event when you see  a black mark on a building indicating where the water reached in that winter over 100 years ago.  I recommend an interesting read "Paris Under Water -How the City of Light Survived the Great Flood of 1910" by Jeffrey Jackson.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

1-2-3 GO-- Les Soldes a Paris

Paris in January and February is cold, dreary and a bit lethargic after all the excitement of Christmas and New Year. One good reason to make the City of Light your winter destination is for shopping, especially to take advantage of "les soldes". Sales in France are state-regulated and run twice yearly-- in winter (January) and in summer (July).  Winter sales this year run from January 11 to February 14.  Department stores,  boutiques and designer outlets run sales that can reach up to 80% reduction over the course of the monthlong sales period.  It covers a wide range of products from clothing, accessories,  shoes, jewelry, perfumes, beauty products, appliances, electronics, housewares, furniture and much more.  So for some great shopping escapades head early to the trendy boutiques of St. Germain des Pres and Le Marais, to le Bon Marche department store for luxury fashion, shoes and accessories, and for housewares and linen and things nothing beats the selection at BHV.  But if you can't make it to Paris this season for the soldes, why not browse the online selection at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps.  Happy hunting!!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On the trail of Joan of Arc

It is believed, Jeanne d' Arc was born 600 years ago on January 6, 1412. She lived a mere 19 years. Her life started in a village of Domremy in the Lorraine region of eastern France, the daughter of poor peasants. Starting in early adolescence she heard celestial voices and had visions commanding her to deliver France from the English occupiers and to lead the king of France to be crowned in Reims. At the age of 16, she set on a perilous voyage across France evading English enemies and their Burgundian allies to meet the dauphin Charles VII in his castle at Chinon. There, she pleaded her cause to the soon to be king promising to lift the English siege of Orleans, chasing them out of France territories and to escort him to Reims for his coronation. Unconvinced at first, Charles VII finally relented after a thorough background check and theological examination. He gave her a small army to bring food supplies to Orleans. Dressed as a knight in armor and holding a white banner with Fleur de Lys, Joanne of Arc arrived at the besieged city on april 29 1429; by May 8 the English gave up the siege and retreated out of the city. Flushed by such sudden victory, Joan went on leading an army recapturing towns after towns all the way to Troyes. This led the way for the dauphin Charles VII to enter Reims where he was crowned King. Following the coronation, the French army marched towards Paris recapturing towns along the way. However, despite an assault on the capital, Paris failed to be re-taken. Injured by a crossbow bolt Joan of Arc and the army were ordered to withdraw. In April 1430, Joan was captured in Compiegne by the Burgundians who sold her to the. English. Tried for heresy because she refused to renounce the voices that guided her, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in Rouen on May 30 1431. That is only the beginning of the story.  Thirty years later in 1450 a trial of rehabilitation took place that overturned the guilty verdict and in 1920 was canonized as Saint.  Joan of Arc became a legend and emblem for France's nationalism and for freedom. Her courage lives on and her story has inspired countless books, plays, paintings and movies.