One reason I wanted to spend time in Paris was because I never get enough of the city. Being in town for just four or five days necessitates running around, seeing as many important monuments and museums as we can. It always felt like there was not enough time to do more than scratch the surface of what is here. When the opportunity arose for a semester in the French capital this spring, I was delighted. Since arriving in late January, we have gone out just about every day to see as much of Paris as we can. We’ve been back to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay to see the Impressionists. We’ve also made our initial visit to the Musée Carnavalet, devoted to the history of Paris, and to Balzac’s house. Mostly we go to museums together, but there have been occasions when my husband has been busy and I branch out on my own. I’ve been fortunate enough to go back to Victor Hugo’s home on the Place des Vosges and I made my first trip to see the permanent collection at the Petit Palais. Yet, the ones I’ve probably enjoyed the most are smaller museums I never knew existed.
At the end of February I found out about an exhibit at the house of the painter Delacroix. Given the gray skies and frosty temperatures of the time, I was especially tempted by the exposition’s title: Des Fleurs en hiver—Flowers in Winter. I knew, too, that the museum’s location near the Place du Furstenberg would give me the chance to see that charming square in the 6th arrondissement as well. What I didn’t expect is that the home itself, where the artist lived for the last six years of his life, is very attractive. The atelier, a separate structure out back, is bright with large windows overlooking a flower garden. While the exhibit was small, some wonderful pieces showed Delacroix’s talent in these atypical subjects from the 1860s. My favorite painting was one he did for his friend, author George Sand. The artist had wanted her to change the spot where the painting was hanging but she loved it so much she left it where she could easily see it from her desk.
Yesterday I decided to go to a special exhibit at the Musée Jacquemart-André on boulevard Haussmann. One look at the magnificent hôtel particulier that now serves as a museum got me wondering if the art would be as fine! (See the mansion pictured at the top of this post.) Built for Édouard André in the second half of the nineteenth century, the estate is as beautiful on the inside as it is outside. André and his young wife, painter Nélie Jacquemart, decorated it lavishly and filled it with art. Until mid-July, it is the setting for a retrospective of the art of Eugène Boudin. Paintings, pastels, and watercolors are spread out over eight rooms showing the skill of this pre-impressionist artist. I was overwhelmed by the work of Boudin, the painter Corot called “le roi des ciels”—the king of the skies. In my extremely limited introduction to drawing and painting, I know how hard it is to portray clouds, not to mention rocks and beaches. I loved Concert au Casino de Deauville which shows attention to the detail of the women's dresses and the bandstand as well as the sky.