Posted on Jun 26, 2014 in All Blog Posts, Travel

“As an artist, a man has no home in Europe save in Paris.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

For many, our first taste of the City of Light begins as a flâneur, strolling the banks of the Seine, absorbing the magic that surrounds and envelopes. Inevitably we pause at the Bouquinistes (bookstalls) to peruse antiquarian books and prints, searching for an image that captures the enchantment of the city. paris-art-002

 

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Les Bouquinistes by Edouard Cortes

 

Artist Francois Durieux captures the Bouquinistes in Spring, as gossamer thin leaves sprout from cool pink trees, and adolescents rendezvous on the cobblestone streets. The image is so lighthearted it bursts beyond its borders.

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Durieux again captures spring in pops of persimmon, pink and gold. Oh how we wish to join him.

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His style recalls the primitive technique of Grandma Moses.  No detail is overlooked, yet the overall impression is one of simple naiveté.  If I didn’t know better, I could almost be lulled into believing I too could be an artist. (but I do know better) In the hankies below, Durieux’s eye catching row of crimson topiary, his sailboats heeling ‘just so’ in the fountain, his fanciful pink clouds caressing the sky with tender kisses belie a painter with an artist’s insight and sensitivity.

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“For a painter, the Mecca of the world, for study, for inspiration and for living is here on this star called Paris.  Just look at it, no wonder so many artists have come here and called it home. Brother, if you can’t paint in Paris, you’d better give up and marry the boss’s daughter.”

Alan Jay Lerner

The more literal handkerchiefs showcase tools of the trade, like this apricot and kelly assemblage on the left.  The classic atelier on the right, complete with red geraniums in the window box delcares “Paris is without peer.” Viewing Notre Dame in the vista beyond, we concur.

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To enhance your viewing:

A Stroll in Paris – Paris J’Taime

 

An easel is charmingly incorporated in this next pair…In Alfred Sisley’s “Banks of the Seine”, dueling skulls meld with their reflection in the water; their blurred movement in sharp contrast the sturdy architecture above. The narrated border and line drawn easel provide a perfect contrast to the sparkling canvas, much like the contrast between speaking and singing.   Who wouldn’t want to pop this gem in their pocket?

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Van Gogh’s “La Roulette” is set against a cool gray backdrop with deep russet hem, depicting a brightly hued gypsy caravan seeking respite from the summer’s heat beneath a canopy of trees. One finds it impossible to believe this master of his craft never sold a painting in his all- too-brief lifetime.*

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In contrast to Van Gogh’s dazzling palette, wild as the caravan it portrays, Utrillo’s Sacré Coeur is contained and controlled in every corbel and turret.  Only the feathery foliage softens the angular architecture.

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At other times,  Utrillo unleashes his brush in bold, swashbucking swaths across the canvas.  His ochers and umbers, his greens – from apple to avacado, asparagus to absinthe, capture not only the mood, but the sunlight in the scene.

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“When spring comes to Paris, the humblest mortal alive must feel that he dwells in paradise.”

Henry Miller

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In stark contrast to spring, Utrillo’s overcast sky provides light but no heat in this deserted allée  in the grip of winter.  Swathed in glacial gray slashes of polar cold, our eye seeks solace from the cutting chill in the cinnamon building and warm toffee bungalow in the foreground.  The solitary street is tinged with loneliness and we want to whisk ourselves homeward to snuggle by a warm fire.

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Ah, but the Moulin Rouge is close by – a dance hall warm with gaiety and good humor. We rush inside to quaff a beverage and watch Toulouse Lautrec ply his trade.  The bold planes of color in his work convey the brashness of the dancehall atmosphere.  Note the energetic yet graceful movements of the conductor’s hands in the backdrop. Lautrec filters the scene as the human eye would – focusing on the foreground while compressing the background into flat patches of color. Wonderful.

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Others gravitate to more hallowed halls of dance to observe Degas’ ballerinas illuminated in the footlights, resplendent in a rainbow of soft pastels.

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Once the weather thaws, Parisians take to the streets to indulge their senses.  The café’s intoxicating glow pulls us irretrievably in, to be enveloped in the bistro’s hospitality. It’s Van Gogh, so naturellement the sky is brilliant, luminous, incandescent with stars….

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Wouldn’t it be nice to take your coffee break outside with a Van Gogh or Utrillo handkerchief spread on the table before you?  One might choose to forego fast food for a lunch of chocolate, cheese and a plump Bosc or d’Anjou pear. (Hey, if you’re consuming calories anyway, enjoy them!)  Influenced by the artist’s gift of observation, one might become a flâneur of his surroundings.  Sadly, today’s luncheon landscape often consists of two or more people at the same table, each immersed in his own cell phone world, or trailing earbud cords like potato vines.  Folks haven’t heard a bird chirping, a fountain splashing, a child giggling, or watched the tête-à-tête of a couple courting since….forever.

As long as we’re escaping, let’s do it in style – in bracing tangerine and brilliant cerulean. If only we could travel back in time to assure Van Gogh his talent would one day be lauded worldwide. C’est domage. His brilliant work, unlike any other, remind us to stay true to our vision, regardless the sacrifice.  You too may be ahead of your time….or perhaps your time is near…or now…..

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“I know so much is going to happen here, but I just don’t know how. It feels like Paris is full of so many adventures just waiting to be had.”

Rachel Kapelke-Dale, Graduates in Wonderland 

Just for Fun

Qu’est-ce que c’est un Flâneur?

A Flâneur is one who strolls, saunters, promenades, or ramble as a peripatetic observer.  He is an urban explorer, a connoisseur of the street, a passionate spectator. Honoré Balzac described flânerie as “gastronomy of the eye.” Baudelaire defined a flâneur as a “gentleman stroller of city streets,” a “botanist of the sidewalk” who had a “key role in understanding and portraying the city.”  He is a spectator who “enters into the world as though it were an immense reservoir of electric energy…gifted with consciousness, responding to each movement.”

And kids – you can’t observe the world with your nose glued to a cell phone…although methinks there are flâneurs who tweet now and again….

The flâneur is not to be confused with a gawker or a dandy roaming the streets seeking attention. Rather, the flâneur remains incognito, anonymous, apart from the crowd, much like an artist or writer who quietly observes the customs and behaviors of others.

My friend José is most assuredly a flâneur. An attorney fluent in French, Spanish, English and more, he calls himself simply a “street anthropologist” and is the most observant person I know. You can follow his blog at www.fabulorum.com.

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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*I gave this handkerchief to my artist friend Elizabeth Barlow, knowing she’d enjoy it as much as I did. Happily a few years later, I found a duplicate for my own collection. You can see her creations  at Artiste Extraordinaire 

2 Comments

  1. 8-4-2014

    Mon Dieu!! What a fantastic blog – I savor each one that is sent!! Ann, remarkable job finding these little pieces of art. Your stories are wonderful. Each time your Blog is sent, I set time aside to really read every word – love the stories. You capture the essence of the scene that you display. Thank you for celebrating in such a grande style the vintage world of Hankies!!

    • 1-29-2015

      You made my day. Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge this labor of love.

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