Thursday, June 29, 2023

Ilè de la Cité and the Cluny

One of the really great things about spending time in the center of a large city like Paris is that there are a wide choice of places to visit, all within a short walk of each other. For example, The Cluny Museum is very close to the Ilé de la Cité. This offers and opportunity to visit several sights in one afternoon.

Ilé de la Cité, an island in the Seine, was the center of Paris, and French life. It was home to the royal family through the 14th century. The former royal palace is now the Palais de Justice, where the highest courts in France have resided for hundreds of years. Between the 14th and 18th centuries, it was a place where royal tribunals were held. It is also home to the royal chapel - Sainte-Chapelle (Holy Chapel).

Palais du Justice

The Sainte-Chapelle was built between 1240 and 1248 CE by Louis IX. It served as the reliquary for the holy relics that Louis had collected, including the purported crown of thorns. There are two levels to the chapel. The ground floor was where members of the court worshipped. The upper floor, which was also the reliquary, was used only by the royal family. The upper floor is known for its beautiful stained glass windows that line the entire length of the chapel, and its star-field ceiling.





Of course, no visit to Ilé de la Cité would be complete without a stop at Notre Dame. The cathedral is still under reconstruction after the devastating fire of 2019, but they finally removed the scaffolding from the front of the church. Today you can on a set of stairs that have been built in front of the building. You can enjoy the view, eat a snack and rest up before you continue your walk.

While in the area, stop at Shakespeare & Co. This is not the original store which was opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, and closed in 1941. In 1951, George Whitman opened an English-language bookshop named Le Mistral, and in 1961 he named it after Beach’s store. The store is still run by the Whitman family, and continues the tradition of supporting writers of English literature.

A short walk from Ilé de la Cité is the Musée Cluny - France’s national museum of the Middle Ages. The Cluny resides in the Hôtel de Cluny, which was the home to the Cluny Abbey. The building was constructed in the 15th century, built around the ruins of a Roman bath. In 1832 the Hôtel de Cluny was bought by Alexandre Du Sommerand to house his collection of renaissance art. The French government bought the museum when Du Sommerand died in 1843, and has run the collection ever since. The Cluny was modernized in the 2010’s with new displays, some structural changes internally, and a new welcome/visitor’s center.



Of course, the Cluny’s main draw are the Unicorn tapestries. Titled “The Lady and the Unicorn,” these six amazing works date from around 1500 CE. They are believed to represent the five senses, along with an allegory entitled A Mon Seul Désir - My Only Desire. The tapestries are considered to be a sister collection to “Hunt of the Unicorn” tapestries on display at the Cloisters in NYC.






A Mon Seul Désir

A city like Paris gives visitors the chance to see many sights and museums in one day. If you choose smaller museums and galleries, you can do this without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. 

Friday, June 23, 2023

Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation - Paris France

Wall Street, New York 1915 by Paul Strand


The 3rd Arrondissement in Paris is filled with art shops, galleries, and small museums. They offer a wide range of genres and offerings. For those of you who are interested in photography, one place you must visit is the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

By Martine Franck / Magnum Photos / Fondation HCB -, Fair use,

By Henri-Cartier Bresson - Original publication: unknownImmediate source:, Fair use,

The foundation was founded in 2003 by Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004), his wife Martine Franck (1938-2012), who was a wonderful photographer in her own right, and their daughter, Mélanie Cartier-Bresson. Its mission is to maintain and curate the collections of Franck and Cartier-Bresson, and to exhibit their work, and the work of other photographers.

By Alfred Stieglitz - [1], Public Domain,

When I visited the foundation, they were hosting an exhibit of work by Paul Strand (1890-1976). Strand was an American photographer whose work helped establish photography as an art form. He was one of the founders of a series of left-wing film and photography collectives - The Film and Photo League, Frontier Films, and eventually The Photo League. All of these groups had a focus on the lives and struggles of working class Americans. Many members of these groups were Communists and Marxists, and the Photo League was declared a “subversive organization” in 1947, and it was black-listed in 1948.

Boy, Uruapan Mexico, 1933

Kwthar, Kalata al Kobra, Delta Egypt 1959

Helen Bennett, War Bride. Vermont 1944

Fisherman, Banyuls, Pyrénées-Orientales, France 1950

Rose Griggy Krakua, Accra University, Ghana 1964

Under the effects of McCarthyism, Paul Strand left the United States in 1950 for France, where he lived for the rest of his life. He completed many projects, traveling to working class areas of France, the Outer Hebrides, Egypt, and Ghana. The photographs he made treated his subjects with a respect that few European photographers had shown up to that time. They were not “anthropological” in nature. Instead his photos give a real feel of the lives his subjects led. His work is a very personal look at people who were often overlooked.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Musée d'Orsay


After my horrible experience at the Musée de Quai Branley, I looked forward to going to a museum that I have wanted to see since it opened. On my last visit to Paris, in 1985, I found the Jue de Palme both wonderful and overwhelming. This trip, I anticipated my visit to the Musée d’Orsay with growing joy, and that day had finally arrived.

My ticket for the museum was timed for noon, so I used my morning to explore a little of the Left Bank. Leaving the Metro at the Solférino station, I walked along Blvd. Saint-Germain. One thing was clear right away, while the neighborhood used to be a hang-out for poor students, today it is very posh. The stores were high-end, and the restaurants were pricey.

While walking along I encountered Le Maison de l’Amerique latine (The Latin American House). This society was founded in 1946 to be a bridge between French and Latin American cultures. In the wake of the French Resistance, President Charles de Gaulle and the Dept. of Foreign Affairs wanted a place where people from France and Latin America could come together and learn about each other. The Maison occupies two 18th century mansions on Saint-Germain, along with their grounds and gardens. It is host to shows of artworks by Latin American artists. When I visited, the gallery was showing works by Chilean artist Eugenio Tellez (b. 1939). Tellez left Chile in the 1960’s and has worked with artists around the world. He has help directorial positions at workshops in Paris, Maine and Montreal. The works on display incorporate military imagery to explore the effects of civil, regional and world-wide conflicts.

Sacco et Vanzetti

Rescate Sauvetage

After touring the exhibit, I continued walking along Blvd. Saint-Germain, ending up at modern cafe called Noir. They serve an excellent latte, even if it was a little on the expensive side.

Church of Saint Thomas of Aquinas

The Musée d’Orsay is another museum where it really helps to order your ticket in advance. The crowds there are second only to The Louvre, and having a timed entry will allow you to by-pass the longest lines. The museum also has one of the most crowded and confusing entrances of any major museum I have visited. I entered through a vestibule that has been added to building, which holds the security check-point. From there, I passed into the old train station. The coat/bag check is down a narrow hallway that is very congested, with no clear distinction between those dropping off, and those picking up their belongings. But this is the only poorly planned section of what is an amazing museum.

The Musée d’Orsay is home to a collection of mostly French art, from the years 1848 through 1914. It has the largest collection of Impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world. The museum is housed in the old Gare d’Orsay, a train terminal built around 1900. It is a beautiful building, and the design takes full advantage of its structure. The center hall stretches over 100 meters in length, and offers a large open space to display many of the statues in the museum’s collection. There are several dozen galleries that line both sides of the station.

The Arlésienne by Vincent van Gogh

L'Averse by Paul Sérusier

Le Salle de Danse á Arles by Vincent van Gogh

Et L'or de leur Corps by Paul Gauguin

Le Lit by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

When I visited the Louvre, I had a plan of attack. I had chosen the works that I was most interested in, and then toured the museum going between those items. But I couldn’t do that for the d’Orsay. I love art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so I really wanted to see everything. I opted for the plan I use for small museums - I took the elevator to the top floor, and worked my way downstairs.This meant that sometime I was viewing work out of chronological order, or in and sequence other than the one that the curators intended. There is so much great art in the d’Orsay, and the timeline of their production was not important to me. Here are some of my favorites, although I actually photographed more than twice this number of works.

Le Cathédrale de Rouen by Claude Monet

Le Bassin aux Nymphéas by Claude Monet

Vue de Toits by Gustave Callebotte

Haystacks, End of Summer by Claude Monet

Danseuses montant un escalier by Edgar Degas

Dance at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Renior

Blue Dancers by Edgar Degas

Luncheon on the Grass by Édouard Manet

There were two special exhibits while I was visiting. One was a show of works done in pastels, those oil-based crayons that many artists use to draw with. (Through July 2)

Moissonneurs by Léon Lhermitte

Mother and Child by Mary Casset

The other was a show of works by Degas and Manet. These “frenemies” sometimes worked together, often argued, and painted many of the same scenes, each with own style. (Through July 23rd)

Madame Manet by Éduoard Manet

Portrait of Édouard and Madame Manet by Edgar Degas. The painting was torn by Manet because he felt that Degas painted his wife in a less than flattering way.

Olympia by Édouard Manet

Olympia (after Manet) by Paul Gaugan, bought by Degas

Repassueses by Edgar Degas

La Repos by Éduoard Manet

The Musée d’ Orsay is a must see, especially if you have an interest in the art produced between The French Revolution and World War I. It was a time of amazing growth and evolution in the European art world, and this is the place to really enjoy it. 

Study in Gray by James Whistler