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Posts tagged ‘Montmartre’

Paris by Night

Having last week commenced the review of my recent Paris trip with a set of photos showcasing the city by day, it is only natural that an accompanying forage into the city by night should follow. For a city widely known by the epithet “The City of Light”, Paris is surprisingly enthralling as darkness falls, not least because it is a city which never truly stops, and which is never ever dark as the city metamorphoses from the romance of its day time elegance to evenings filled with the resonance of haunting jazz and old fashioned cabaret, dazzled by the sparkling lights of the Tour Eiffel, warmed by the glow of cosy brasseries, and bearing the racy red reflection of the turning sails of the Moulin Rouge.

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Paris by night is, in fact, a particularly special time for me, as it was after dark that I was first introduced to the charms of Paris when, her hands covering my eyes, my English teacher led me up the stairs of Montmartre and uncovered them only when the magical Place du Tertre was before me. It is a moment I will forever remember, when darkness offset the glowing interiors of brasseries and gift shops, and in the Square, a string of lanterns illuminated the trees under which artists painted.

But let’s face it, there are few times when Paris is not at its beautiful best, and as the sun descends and the skies fill with red and rose-coloured hues, the stunning sunsets are like a premonition of the beautiful nights that are to come. Nights which were no less wonderful at this time of winter, when Christmas lights still twinkled in the streets and a frosty biting atmosphere lent sharp clarity to the air.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 20136and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

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Sunday Supplement Valentine’s Special – Engaged in Paris

On Valentine’s Day we witnessed the momentous and happy event that was Normy and Normette’s engagement a-top the Eiffel Tower. The tower is, inevitably, a popular place for engagement, and there can be no surprises why – who could resist the views afforded by the tower, across the ultimate city of love, when choosing a place to pop the ultimate question? I myself got engaged in Paris, although our view was from the Butte in Montmartre – for that place means so much to me as an artist, but also afforded us a view of the Eiffel Tower itself, just as it started sparkling on the hour – that way we got the best of both worlds – what a moment it was!

DSC06085It was in the place of my own engagement (although, significantly, I hadn’t actually popped the question at this time, although you can see that subconsciously, I was intending to) that I set this double portrait which I am featuring in today’s Sunday Supplement in honour of Valentine’s. Painted in 2009, the painting features two friends of mine, Charlotte and Ben, who themselves got engaged upon the Eiffel tower. When they approached me to do a portrait of them for the wedding itself, I couldn’t resist painting them surrounded by the city in which their engagement was sealed, but also in the romantically cobbled surroundings of Montmartre, along with the Tour Eiffel in the background. That way all the charm of Paris is captured, while the place of their engagement is given appropriate prominence in the scene.

Engaged in Paris: Charlotte and Ben (2009 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Engaged in Paris: Charlotte and Ben (2009 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

DSC06083The painting, albeit a commission, was a pleasure to create, not least because Paris has always been my spiritual home. The moment I first walked into the Place du Tertre in Montmartre, led their blindfolded by a teacher (on a school trip) who knew instinctively how much I would love it, my heart hit the floor and has remained firmly embedded in those charming cobbles ever since, surrounded by cafes, by artists and the sound of the accordion. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to visit Paris every year, in order to plug myself into my heart and my spiritual being, and likewise why I chose to stage my own engagement in this incredibly special place.

I leave you with the painting, and for those celebrating Valentine’s this weekend wish you a very special celebration.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Paris: la visite d’art – Exhibition 2: Bohèmes

With a second day comes a second exhibition direct from the city of love, light, and above all things, art. Paris, inspiration to so many creatives over the years, is host to a sensational array of art exhibitions this Autumn/Winter season, and I could not wait to rush over on eurostar to get my fill.

Our second show, after Hopper, was also the second of two big blockbuster shows being held consecutively in the mammoth greenhouse-come-palace otherwise known as Le Grand Palais. Entitled Bohèmes, this exhibition promised to be an enriching exploration of the bohemian age of Paris, when pearly green absinthe dripped from sugar on a balanced spoon in little grimy bars on the step hillsides of Montmartre, when dandy artists courted flirty prostitutes and cabaret dancers, and when the true spirit of the artistic revolution was born.

L'Absinthe (Edgar Degas, 1876)

L’Absinthe (Edgar Degas, 1876)

It was the inevitable consequence of the impressionist age, when artists and intellectuals alike broke free from the shackles of Napoleonic Paris, zealously keen to explore the new modernised world, an age with re-written moral values, re-examined sensibilities, and artistically a blank-canvas ripe for the most extravagant exploration. It was the age of the bohemian revolution, the time of Toulouse Lautrec, the Moulin Rouge and the can-can, and surely the most charming age of all Parisian history.exposition_bohemes_grand_palais-470-wplok

It was with a high degree of excitement then that we entered our second expo in the Grand Palais, ready to indulge in Le Chat Noir, the decadence of dandyism, and the melancholy of alcoholic introspection. And yet what we were faced with was a huge long gallery full of dank old paintings…of gypsies! This was not at all what I had expected, and I must admit to being quite put out by this start to the show. Unenthusiastically, we browsed the nondescript works, before turning the corner, only to find more. Gypsies in Romania, Gypsies in Spanish Seville, all painted in a very classical, traditional fashion, each in turn failing to inspire me (I also thought it was rather ironic that this exhibition was even on show in Paris… after all, wasn’t France the country which was recently so caught up in a scandal with the Romani communities?).

However soon enough, the exhibition changed for the positive. Depictions of the gypsy communities became all the lighter, more colourful and lighthearted. Enter Van Gogh, with his fresh, turquoise skies and bright yellow gypsy caravan near Arles, and Renoir with his iconically idealistic portrayal of a gypsy girl. Then there was the great Courbet, the artist much lauded for kickstarting the spirit of the artistic revolution, and his highly original self-portrait, Bonjour Monsieur Courbet.

Gustav Courbet, La Recontre ou Bonjour M. Courbet (1854)

Gustav Courbet, La Recontre ou Bonjour M. Courbet (1854)

Van Gogh, Gypsy Camp near Arles

Van Gogh, Gypsy Camp near Arles

Auguste Renoir, En été / La bohémienne (1868)

Auguste Renoir, En été / La bohémienne (1868)

So why all the gypsies? Well apparently, the origin of the word “bohemian” is from the French word bohémien, which is the french word for gypsy, allegedly because the French believed the Romani people to have come either from or certainly through Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). From the gypsy connotations, the word gradually became used to describe people who were “socially unconventional” and so the bohemian concept was born – the art lovers, the dancers, the scandalous inhabitants of Montmartre – all were part of a mass bohemian revolution, where social conventions were cast to the weakening winds of the past, and free spirited minds were unleashed upon the world of art, love and leisure. And it was to this time, at the end of the 19th century, when bohemianism truly came into its own, that the exhibition finally wandered, casting behind the historical gypsy poses, and taking us to the heart of the bohemian insurrection of 19th century Paris.

From hereon in, I was in art heaven. From Courbet’s dashing self-portraits, and depictions of the artist’s arteliers (art studios), to the vibrant artistic community of Montmatre, with its cafés, its dance halls and its Moulins aplenty, these paintings unleashed an age of debauchery, of charm and of vivacious artistic liberty which was almost unique to the Montmartre region and a decisive factor in why I came to adore Paris as a young school boy first wandering into the Place du Tertre.

Paul Signac, Le Moulin de la Galette (1884)

Paul Signac, Le Moulin de la Galette (1884)

Van Gogh, Coin a Montmartre, le Moulin a poivre (1887)

Van Gogh, Coin a Montmartre, le Moulin a poivre (1887)

Ramon Casas, En Plein-air (1890)

Ramon Casas, En Plein-air (1890)

But not only did the exhibition feature the paintings of bohemianism, but also recreated their world. The café scenes were displayed in a mock up café with long benches, peeling walls and posters from the infamous cabaret Le Chat Noir and the artist’s hangout, Le Lapin Agile, while the depictions of the ateliers were hung on the walls of an artist’s studio. Playing in the background was the music of two operas – Bizet’s Carmen, the opera about Seville’s most famous gypsy protagonist, and of course Puccini’s La Bohéme, a story of the quintessential bohemians in 19th century Paris – the starving writer and his equally hungry artist friend, scraping together a living while falling in love with prostitutes and suffering the full potency of love, romance and the horrors of a poverty-ridden death.

Ramon Casas, Madeleine or Au Moulin de la Galette (1892)

Ramon Casas, Madeleine or Au Moulin de la Galette (1892)

Santiago Rusiñol, Café de Montmartre (1890)

Santiago Rusiñol, Café de Montmartre (1890)

Steinlein, poster for Le Chat Noir

Steinlein, poster for Le Chat Noir

The atmosphere conjured by the paintings of that time are like a snapshot onto an almost impossible age of charm. Of course it’s easy to romanticise poverty and decadence, in times which were hard, often miserable, and tragic, and yet there is something about that age which fills me with incredible inspiration, as though the artistic spirit which was kindled in that time has never burnt out, pervading through the centuries and igniting the artistic spirits of a millennia of new creative generations.

Ccharles Amable Lenoir, Rêverie (1893)

Ccharles Amable Lenoir, Rêverie (1893)

I only wish that you too could be inspired by the paintings on show… however these photos will have to be enough. Having just checked the website, I see that this great show finished at the weekend, drawing this fascinating study of bohemia to a close, but reopening a chapter of artistic revolution whose impact will live forever.

I leave you, for completeness, with the Norms’ very own version of Degas’ L’Absinthe (above)… it wasn’t featured in Bohémes, but clearly should have been.

L'Absinthe Norm (acrylic on canvas, 2011 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

L’Absinthe Norm (acrylic on canvas, 2011 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

À bientôt

The Daily Sketch: Nun Norms visit the Sacré Coeur

Back to Paris, where the Norms continue to pass the time between Olympic and Paralympic excitement by visiting the fair city at the political and cultural centre of France. But today, we do not join the typical kind of tourists. Rather, here at the stunning Sacré Coeur atop Paris’ Butte de Montmartre, two groups of Norm Nuns have come to visit their fellow Nuns who reside at one of Paris’ most iconic sacred spots. One group, from the Convent of Sister Norma in Sittingbourne (in the ordinary black habits) are not sure what is more fascinating – the Sacré Coeur and its unbeatable views of Paris below, or the strange pointy Cornette habits of their fellow nuns, visiting form El Convento de Maria Norma de Nova in Castille y Leon. Whatever their interest, all the Nun Norms are assured a happy day out in Montmartre, Paris’ crowning glory.

Nun Norms visit the Sacré Coeur, Paris (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Norm Profile: Cool Norm (2005)

Following on from yesterday’s Turner Prize blog entry, in which I examined the melancholy but strangely beautiful and atmospheric works of both Martin Boyce and George Shaw, it follows naturally that in today’s Daily Norm, I introduce you to one of my first Norm paintings, painted back in 2005: “Cool Norm”.

Cool Norm (Acrylic on canvas, 2005 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

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