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Posts tagged ‘Musée d’Orsay’

Artist in Focus: Frédéric Bazille

Impressionism was not just an artistic movement. It was a way of seeing which radically changed the path of art, paving the way to practically every contemporary creative vision which followed whether it be abstract expressionism or visceral photorealism, or even works of sculpture and photography. Accordingly, as an artistic epoch, its works have become so well known that even the most unknowledgeable could probably associate Monet’s Japaenese bride or a watery vision of waterlilies with the movement. But for all the fuzzy edged Renoir portraits, and the softly lit Monet landscapes, few people ever refer to one of Impressionism’s earliest pioneers: Frédéric Bazille.

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Bazille’s Studio; 9 Rue de la Condamine, 1870

Born in Montpellier in 1841, Bazille was both a contemporary and working companion of  Monet and Renoir whom he met while studying fine art in Paris having given up his parents’ preferred discipline of medicine. Coming from a wealthy family, Bazille was more than just a friend to his budding co-artists, providing them with shared studio space and much needed income during their crucial early years of creation. It was as a trio that the zealous three began to paint en plein air, rejecting the studio-based historical compositions that were in fashion and favouring the recreation of reality, or at least an impression thereof.

However Bazille was not just an early Impressionist. In fact his works were not even included in the first renowned Impressionist exhibitions in which the most iconic artists of the movement were hung. His work was stylistically unique, with a finessed confident line and clear figurative composition which eschewed the feathery brush work of his colleagues and endowed his work with a potent but still poetic atmosphere.

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Family Reunion, 1867

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Aigues-Mortes, 1867

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View of the Village, 1868

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The Pink Dress (View of Castelnau-le-Lez, Hérault), 1864

When the opportunity to see the works of Bazille enmassed arose this winter in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, I rushed to the show as quickly as I could get through the enormous queues outside. There, I cherished an encounter with the majority of Bazille’s most famous works, such as his captivating Family Reunion, and his highly homo erotic works, Fisherman with a Net, and Summer Scene. For capturing the male was another way in which Bazille differed from his contemporaries. For unlike the womaniser Renoir and the almost married Monet, Bazille was more of a loaner, said to be drawn to his own sex, and in these beautiful languid portrayals of the male, you can feel both a passionate admiration for the masculine form, and what must have been his frustration at not being able to openly explore it otherwise than in paint.

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Scène d’été, 1869

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Fisherman with a Net, 1868

Sadly for us, the show at the d’Orsay was a short one, for the oeuvre of Bazille was cut tragically short by his early death at the age of only 28 while fighting during the Franco-Prussian war. Thus a needless bullet ended what might have been one of the most prolific careers of the Impressionist age, and who should always be remembered as one of its most promising young stars.

Paris | Photography Focus – Campana d’Orsay

The last post of my recent Parisian adventure, and the fourth set of photographs emanating from the trip pulls something of a sharp focus on a particular place in Paris, and not one that is all that well known either. In the insuperably brilliant Musee d’Orsay, behind one of the two huge round glass windows which double as the prominent clock faces which characterise the building’s impressive riverside façade, is a super chic new café opened following the major renovations of the museum in 2011. The café, which was designed by the Campana brothers, and now carries their name, is very different from the typical bistros and brasseries which are so characteristic of Paris. Ultra modern in its design, throwing diners into something of an undersea aquarium-come-fairy tale palace with its waving lines, bubble like round-patterned chairs, and striking aquamarine backdrop, this café is nothing if not eccentric, but therefore perfectly placed in its location next to the galleries containing France’s foremost collection of impressionist art – after all, these were the artists who challenged all of the art which had gone before them. As a café, the food isn’t all that great, and the selection is even worse, but the design is such a winner that I couldn’t help but give this genius of café design its own little space on The Daily Norm.

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The photos which follow focus mainly on the various unique features of the Café Campana, but also include some cheeky shots of fellow diners. I’m not even sure that I’m really allowed to take photos of people without their permission, and still less publish them online. But if that’s the case, it’s a real shame, because there is nothing quite like a voyeuristic glance at fellow dinners to really capture the essence of a place. In fact like the Impressionists before me, these photos represent my way of doing what those artists did best: representing real life, and recognising reality as a thing of beauty in itself. Surely no activity could be more appropriate at the d’Orsay’s café, where only rooms away, Degas’ famous painting of desolate drinkers staring into their glasses of Absinthe in a Paris bar (l’Absinthe) hangs amongst the masterpieces on show.

Admittedly the diners in my photos are enhanced by their surroundings, and in particular the glittering gold lights which are by far my favourite aspect of the design. Hanging in their multitudes, these lights give the feeling of being in a kind of Olympian paradise, where over-sized golden blue bells hang abundantly above. Their splendid shiny gold surface, and their installation, hung from great steel joists also painted gold, makes for a lavish spectacle in a way that only gold can; a spectacle which is all the more enhanced by the sheer abundance of it – when you have gold, why not have plenty of it? And hung as they are, all at different lengths, in irregular groupings, these lights seem so unplanned as to be a natural phenomenon; the kind of visionary wonder that makes you appreciate the glory of the world all around.

In short, the Musee d’Orsay is well worth visiting for the Café Campana alone. Not necessarily to anticipate a gastronomic revolution – it is only a café after all, and a museum café at that – but to gaze in wonder at what must be one of the most impressive contemporary restaurant designs in Paris. I leave you with my photos – which include a few inevitable shots of the impressive d’Orsay itself – a former left bank station which has more than found its own as a bastion of 19th and 20th century art. Until next time Paris…

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2013 and 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. 

Norms do… Degas’ L’Absinthe

I’ve always been a bit obsessed with the la fée verte . That is to say, I’ve always been fascinated by the debauched charm of that wonderful peppermint green drink which was and still is (in its full potent form) an illegal alcoholic substance: Absinthe. For absinthe has long been the chaperone of artistic legend, as all the most romantic illusions of the impoverished, desperate, inebriated artist are indubitably accompanied by a bottle of the green stuff, or a glass of its milky diluted counterpart. Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge, the green faced cancan dancers of Toulouse Lautrec’s underworld masterpieces, and the dissolute tale of a spiral into poverty and lascivious living on the hillsides of Montmartre in Zola’s L’Assomoir all centre around the mirky hallucinogenic potency of this green-eyed alcoholic monster. It is the very essence of bohemian artistic Paris, and it’s association has pervaded art and its cultural progeniture for decades. One of the most prominent sources of the liquor’s legendary quality is the sensational painting L’Absinthe by Edgar Degas. I first saw the painting in London, when it was exhibited at Tate Britain’s superb exhibition Degas, Sickert and Toulouse Lautrec in 2005-6. I was instantly struck by the simple solitude of the female figure, caught in a moment of absentmindedness and melancholia, appearing quite isolated despite the figure sat to her left, he looking away in his own depressive daydream. I’ve remembered the painting ever since and therefore I was so excited to make its acquaintance once again upon visiting the Musée d’Orsay the other week that I decided I had to turn it into a Norm painting. And so, when the Norms do Degas, it looks something like this…

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

Degas’ original painting, on the other hand, looks like this…

L'Absinthe (Edgar Degas, 1876)

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Paris Part III: The Musée d’Orsay rehang and, finally, some macaroons

Our last day in Paris, our last breakfast in Le Pain Quotidien on the Rue des Archives, but not the end for our art tour of Paris. For today, we decided to try our luck on a week day where we had failed on Sunday… the Musée d’Orsay. So, like Sunday, there were queues to get tickets. You can buy tickets for the museum online, but they don’t give you the option of printing at home (like the Grand Palais tickets) and instead you have to go in search of a FNAC store to collect your pre-bought tickets, which in my opinion somewhat negates the queue jumping benefits of buying online. So in the event, we waited 40 minutes in a spiralling but steadily moving queue to get in, and those minutes went by fairly quickly, as the anticipation of getting inside and feasting on perhaps Paris’ greatest art collection grew closer. And once inside, we were not disappointed.

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