Yesterday was Victory Day in France. Instead of remaining buried in bed on this bank holiday, I met Solli at Musée d’Orsay. This is probably my favorite museum in Paris. As you may know, it is housed in an old train station, and the place succeeds in making us travel in time indeed. The art is old enough to bring up a lost world with now foreign fashion and social conventions. Yet, it was created close enough in time that we can relate to it. It recalls the Maupassant novels we read in high school. Degas’s ballerinas delight me as much as my regular nights at Palais Garnier. The Impressionists’ depictions of nature take me back to the Normandy I grew up in. Paris was already the bustling and fashionable capital it is now.
Walking through the museum, it is at times easy to imagine women in corseted gowns eyeing men in evening dress to the sound of an orchestra playing a feisty waltz. Such is the case in the ballroom (Salle des Fêtes). It used to be part of a hotel housed in the train station.
Let us not forget the amazing views of Paris from the top floor. The skyline reminded me of the impression I had of the capital being an old village compared to other cities I’ve lived in, like New York City and Tokyo. Its apparent stillness in time is probably what makes its charm and an object of wonder and reassurance to so many people.
We then headed to the Van Gogh exhibition. With about 40 paintings and other works of art, it focuses on the painter’s mental illness and his relationship to his surroundings. What moved me is how an artist could create such beauty amid the torments he endured in his mind. Though we are quick to disparage people suffering of a disease we fail to understand, we ought to acknowledge what strength some have to still see and pass on the grace they observe in the world.
The paintings struck me by their use of color. Mostly though it was the brushstrokes that brought them to life. In one case you could literally imagine yourself standing amid high grass with the wind blowing in your back and shaping the field ahead of you.
This painting was probably my favorite: it reminded me of when I walk home at night and wonder at the city lights reflecting on the Seine.
We ended our visit at the restaurant, which used to be the dining room of the hotel. I had often peeked through the windows when it was closed and I was delighted this time to sit down in such a grand setting, my back to a view of the Seine. A morning well spent.