Monday, 22 February 2021

Académie de la Grande Chaumière

The Académie de la Grande Chaumière was created by the Swiss national, Martha Stettler and is dedicated to painting and sculptures.
Located at the heart of the Montparnasse area of Paris, historical core and intellectual life of the capital. The Grande Chaumière is still open to this day. Before 1914, a small number of migrants move to La Ruche. After 1914, it was a tidal wave, people fleeing insurrestions, persecutions, pogroms, censorship or puritanism. The Montparnasse area was popular due to the cheap and easy life here and the low cost of accommodation at the time. Artists and Intellectuals gathered in the cafes from dawn to dusk. It was a period of friendship and collaboration between artists.
Owing to the artist friendships and a limited number of models, the group collective lifedrawing started at le Grande Chaumiere. This meant that the models also had better terms and conditions and it became the new norm for artists working together. Many famous artists used the studios: Picasso, Soutine, Mogligiani, Giacometti, Braque, Dali, Degas, Kandinsky and many more .. I have a long list in a brochure.
Today the Académie de la Grande Chaumière is a private art school and workshop. We went to an exhibition there one day, so Dave, my husband was able to take some photos inside. It is possible to book on a pay as you go system for life drawing classes or sign up for a term. There are classes most days of the week - Monday to Friday both morning and afternoons. I was lucky enough to attend 3 afternoon classes there. The poses follow a standard format - 5x5mins, 15 min, 20 min, 40 min, 20 min, 5x2 mins with a break before the long pose. The classes have very good models and are run by the acadamie students. Below are some results of my work at the classes from both a female and a male model.
Male models:

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Les Nabis - 1888-1900 - a group of French artists

While we were in Paris there were two exhibitions following "Les Nabis". Les Nabis et le Décor at the Musée du Luxembourg and Le Talisman at the Musée D'Orsay. I had never heard about the group before but the exhibitions were fascinating to me. I was particularly fond of the paintings by Vuillard and Bonnard.

The artists formed a group in 1888 and called themselves "Les Nabis" or the prophets. They were inspired by the artist Gauguin and the late impressionists. It all started with the talisman painting by Paul Serusier, called Le Paysage au Bois d'Amour. It uses bright colours and an almost abstract feel. The group included Bonnard, Vuillard, Maurice Denis, Serusier, Ranson and Valloton. 

They created joyous and rhythmic works intended to decorate contemporary interiors. There ambition was to create a new art hence the prophets. They were also influenced by Japanese prints, particularly their flat and colourful images. They took themes from association of women with nature, inwardness and spirituality and were driven by the desire to create art available to all.

The interior paintings by Denis, Bonnard and Vuillard were the best I have seen. I was particularly interested in Vuillard who seemed to be commissioned to paint interiors for his clients. He worked on a theme of public gardens to produce one set of paintings including a diptych and triptych. At the Musée D'Orsay there is also an amazing oval painting painted by Vuillard which is shown below. 

Oval by Vuillard
I made some sketch drawings at the exhibitions. It was difficult as the exhibitions were packed with people and we had a limited time slot. I made a few notes too - the focal points used quite vivid colours, long brush strokes, slightly pointillist in style. Many of the paintings use a limited palette to great effect.

If you have a chance to see any of these artists I can definitely recommend them. Many of their works are held in private collections but in Paris you can see some at the Musée D'Orsay all year.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

During our trip to Paris we visited the studio and national museum for the artist Eugène Delacroix. Prior to our visit I was not familiar with this artist, but I think his history is worthy of note as an accomplished French Artist and having an influence on the impressionists.

He was born during the Napoleonic reign with his career following waterloo. It was a rebellious and romantic period. Perhaps his most famous painting is "Liberty leading the people" which is housed in the Louvre. The louvre has a number of his larger works which we didn't have time to see (another time). During his life he also produced a number of drawings and lithographs including some of Shakespeare's works.

He himself was influenced by the artist Ruban's but also by famous writers and musicians. He used expressive brush strokes which were a precursor for the impressionism movement. Both Renoir and Manet were followers of Delacroix and copied some of his works. 

In 1847 he moved to 6 rue de Furstenberg, Paris 6eme. He had a studio built in the garden. He moved there as it was within easy walking distance from church of Saint Sulpice where he had a big commission to decorate the church walls. The two paintings of note are "Jacob wrestling the angel" and "St. Michael slaying the dragon". The figures and the surrounding foliage really are striking and very much larger than life yet full of life. I spent quite a while looking at the paintings, unfortunately I didn't have my sketch book that day. They are very impressionistic in style.

Delacroix worked in his studio until his death in 1863. He had a house keeper, Jenny, who guarded his privacy. The studio and apartment now houses the Musée national for Delacroix. The studio and garden are beautiful although I wish they had left the studio as one might have found it rather than an exhibition space. The big studio window is amazing and provided a good quantity of light for his work. 

I found a quote of interest about him .."Eugène Delacroix was a curious mixture of scepticism, politeness, dandyism, willpower, cleverness, despotism and finally a kind of special goodness and tenderness that always accompanies genius".

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Rodin, at the heart of sculpture

I first discovered Rodin's sculptures many years ago on a visit to Paris in the Musee D'Orsay. However, it wasn't until I visited Lisbon and the Gulbenkian Museum that I was WOWed by his sculpture. Hence a visit to Paris had to include a visit to the Musee Rodin. 

Right hands

We arrived at opening time and spent most of the day there, eating a picnic in the garden. There is no denying that I love his sculptures! I spent half the day inside visiting the various themed rooms which traces a rough chronological journey of his life. Then the afternoon outside in the amazing gardens with his bigger scaled sculptures including "Le Penser".

"Le Penser"

Rodin originally rented rooms in the mansion from 1908. It now houses some of his amazing collection.

He learnt sculpture initially in a very traditional way, his early works were very precise but lacked character . He also studied the work of famous sculpturers he admired and in particular observed the very best of Roman sculpture. He realised that quality was important and also strict observation of the subject. He experimented by paring things back and was able to make a move forward with his sculpture from that point. He always tried to capture emotion and character in his figures. The shape, movement and form were everything to him. I love the way that he also seemed to be in tune with the material he used such as stone or bronze. One can feel the process of a figure being modelled from the stone.

"L'homme qui marche"

Draped torso

I tried to make a few sketches of his work but I think I was rather in awe so they haven't turned out as well as I would have liked. I think my favourites were the small sculptures such as "Le Désespoir" and "Le Réveil". If you have a chance to visit Paris I definitely recommend visiting this museum.

"Le Réveil"

"Le Désespoir"

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Jardin du Luxembourg

The Jardin du Luxembourg is a beautiful garden in the centre of Paris. It is a haven from the hustle and bustle of city life. The garden was designed for the Palais du Luxembourg and is now owned by the French state and most importantly is open to all.

It has the most delightful round pond where children's sailboats can be sailed across it. Each boat has a sail representing a different country.

Many of our trips around Paris involved a walk through the gardens on the way to visit somewhere or the way back. Sometimes we would take a picnic and a book to read just to escape the city. There are many statues in the garden and lots of immaculately planted flower beds. And most importantly lots of chairs to sit on. Bless the French for thinking of the essentials especially as many of the lawns cannot be walked on. People go to the gardens to meet their friends, eat their lunch or just sit and contemplate life. 

Of course no French park could be without pétanque areas. I believe there were 4 linked together and a clubhouse. I love to watch the game, the strategies and the various talents of the players. And I'm not the only one as there is usually a crowd watching. It is also a chance to socialise with friends. For painters it is a chance to sit and sketch!!

Another lovely feature was the pony rides for the children in the afternoons along the main vistas.

It was definitely one of my favourite places to visit in Paris. You could sit, feel the last of the sun and really wind down at the end of the day. 

Monday, 1 February 2021

A Month in Paris

In April 2019 I was very lucky to spend a month living in Paris with my husband. We booked a month at an AirBNB  in the 13th Arrondissement near to the Montparnasse tower. The objective of the trip was to learn more about Paris than you would on a holiday and really get a flavour for life in Paris. Key to this was visiting exhibitions and museums particularly with an art theme. We also wanted to take in the parks, the markets and the cafes and restaurants. Bizarrely we also visited the cemeteries especially as we lived near to one! 

It was not a trip without drama. In the first ten days we visited the Notre-Dame Cathedral. It has always been a special place for me  .. a must see on any trip to Paris. This time we spent longer and were able to see more of the graves, friezes, paintings and artefacts. It was a shock that we heard news on TV just two days later seeing the Cathedral in flames. We watched on TV as the spire toppled and the drama unfolded. It was shocking and unbelievable .. luckily the building was only partially destroyed. The next day was surreal as there was a definite feeling of shock in Paris. People were very subdued.

It is difficult to know where to start! But it makes sense to start with Monet and the water lilies a definite must see in Paris in the Musee de l'Orangerie. The sheer scale of the works should not fail to impress whatever the weather. The paintings are housed in two oval rooms. The Monet water lilies "contemplate an image of nature evoking infinity. Nerves strained by work would relax in its presence." The Key to the works is no horizon, they are illuminated by the real sky above, the more you look the more you see or don't see. If you sit and look you will feel pure calm. 

We visited twice on our trip and neither time were disappointed despite the crowds. On return from Paris I made this pastel inspired picture as a card.