The Laughing Zebra


If you go to Paris you Need to Visit this Museum

(And no, it isn’t the Louvre)

I’m just now having some time to write some posts from our trip to Europe last spring. So many pictures to wade through! And it was such a whirlwind of places, art, food and constant walking that it is hard to know where to start.

Thinking about Impressionism and how much I love so many of the artists in this movement so I am going to start with our visit to the  Musée d’Orsay in Paris. It was definitely a highlight and one I had looked forward to for a long time. It did not disappoint. We went on one of the evenings when they are open late and just had a relaxed time enjoying all the art and imagining so many great stories of how it all came to be.

All the paintings that I had seen in countless books and prints were so much more breathtaking in person. I loved getting a close up look of Van Gogh’s brushstrokes and could just feel the energy and movement and angst that was so much a part of who he was as an artist. Going from one artist’s grouping to another (many of them were in the same room), I could finally get a real sense of this time in history and how these artists all played off one another.

Some of my favorites were the Degas pastels, Renoir’s dancing couples, Cezzane’s still lifes, Romare Bearden’s cut paper art (you could see the creased and faded paper and imagine his fingers cutting and pasting). Mary Cassatt’s luminous portraits were glowing with the play of color and light that so define her work. And of course Monet! (went to Giverny on this trip too…another post on that)! Hard to put into words the magic in this place and feeling an almost hushed awe of such incredible talent. The museum  is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900, and is such a beautiful building, a perfect setting for all this amazing art. And being located on the left bank of the Seine the location just adds to the feeling of stepping back in time.

If you love art and especially Impressionism and Post Impressionism (this museum holds the largest collection in the world) then you need to see this in person. 

Sennelier Shop in Paris

When we were in Paris in June we stopped into the Sennelier shop. Don’t you just love an art supply store? This one is full of history and character. It is easy to imagine Cezzane, Degas and Gauguin squeezing their way through the tiny shop in pursuit of their cherished supplies. It was opened in 1887, amidst hundreds of other color merchants. (In 1885, there were 600 listed), and is still run by the Sennelier family. One of their claims to fame is that they created  a special oil pastel for Picasso who came into the shop in 1948 with a request. He wanted to know if they could make a medium that could be used on any surface, without requiring a special coating. It took them a year to create the sticks of pigment that were waxy rather than chalky, and which could be used in thick, dense strokes. Picasso bought 40 of each of the 48 colors. They quickly became a sensation in the store and are still made today. Even though I know you can order these pastels online, I wanted to buy a few to take home from this amazing store. I also bought a few chalk pastels, imagining Degas himself using these. In fact he came into the store once and requested soft pastels in a range of browns, which they ended up developing a series of 700 shades in the medium, 30 of which became Degas’s own browns. And this is one of the things I so loved about Paris. Literally everywhere I went I felt caught in a moment in history and could really feel the sense of creativity and inspiration that must have been just thick in the air, as all of these artists, on the cusp of great discoveries were living and breathing in this space.