So I hopped a ride with a friend (sorry, couldn’t resist that) to go to the Grand Palais to see the art exhibition that’s impossible to get into: Edward Hopper. Like the rest of the population of Paris, I waited until the last days to view this outstanding retrospective. Yes, we’re all out standing in the gravel-lined grounds of this magnificently restored museum waiting to get in. There’s a 3-hour waiting period.
The French have far more patience than my non-French friend and I, so we left with the intention to return during the last three days (February 1st to 3rd) when the exhibition hall will be open for 24 hours. Imagine that. I might just view Hopper’s paintings at three in the morning. Et pourquoi pas? For the sake of exceptional art, it’s worth it.
Edward Hopper, the American artist who lived from 1882 to 1967, was known as a romantic, realist, symbolist and formalist. He first came to Paris in 1906 (and then again in 1909 and 1910) and was greatly influenced by the Impressionist school, the 19th-century art movement that originated with a group of Paris-based artists, namely Cézanne, Degas, Monet, Sisley, Pissarro and Renoir. Radicals in their time, they violated the rules of academic painting. Impressionist features include open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities, common, ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement, and unusual visual angles.
Degas inspired Hopper to take original angles and apply the poetic principle of dramatisation.
This is one of my favourites. The light in this painting—both natural and artificial—gives the scene of a gas station and its lone attendant at dusk an underlying sense of drama.
It is fitting that Hopper’s work has now come to Paris for the first time.
Here are some random street shots that I took as we made our way along the Champs-Elysees to the Place de la Concorde, the strange weather at times stormy and then sunny.
Above is the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens from the Place de la Concorde. Notice the formality and neatly-trimmed treetops. No wayward wisteria or defiant dogwood here. The French like symmetry and control in their gardens. The theory of the 17th-century French garden was the subordination of nature to reason and order.
They also like long vistas and perspective. Above is one of the tree-lined garden paths with a glimpse of the Louvre museum in the background. You half expect to see Madeline and the eleven schoolgirls walking here in two straight lines (from The Madeline books by Ludwig Bemelmans.)
Tuileries is the French word for tilemakers. A medieval warren of tilemakers occupied the site in the latter part of the 16th-century. The location became the residence of King Louis XIV, who was awaiting completion of the palace of Versailles, and when the king and his family moved out during the 17th-century, the Tuileries garden was converted into the most fashionable public park in Paris. And still is today.
Running parallel to the gardens is the rue de Rivoli. Among the many shops that line it is the English bookshop, W.H. Smith.
This is where the anglophone community congregates and hobnobs. Monthly bookreadings and author evenings are organized as well as kids’ club events. I usually go for the international magazine section at the back and the English sweet shop upstairs. The next author event is March 21st at 7 pm where Jenny Colgan will present and sign her book THE LOVELIEST CHOCOLATE SHOP IN PARIS. Hmmmmm…..I think I’ll make a point of being there.