"I have a terrible need of - dare I say the word? -religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars..." -Vincent van Gogh, 1888I got to see some of my favorite paintings at the Musée d’Orsay. While they invoked a great sense of awe and admiration in me, they also made me joyful and excited because of the magical sense of connectedness I felt when I looked at them. Van Gogh’s meticulous brushstrokes, or Cezzane’s almost whimsical watercolor washes, seemed many times more impressive than what I had seen on slides and in textbooks, but they also seemed much more accessible and human. Seeing them gave me courage and real inspiration for my own artwork.
The collection at the Orsay is brilliant, superb, magnificent, opulent... exquisite. I had not expected to find works by Art Nouveau architects Gustav Klimt, Victor Horta and Hector Guimard – people I had studied and written about just last semester at
While it was great to see familiar paintings in real life – and indeed the crowds were all gathered around the famous impressionist paintings on the top floor – what really excited me much more were the watercolors. After all, a lot of the art I am working on is going to be in watercolors and so these pieces – framed behind glass and therefore impossible to portray well in photography – were a real and practical source of inspiration. I loved the rough pencil marks, the free-flowing color, the sense of spontaneity and movement... oh, and the pastels (in particular, Degas!) of course were also superb.
I spent over four hours at the museum. I took a break half-way through and sat and watched a documentary in a small theater about the mystery in Manet’s life and works. It was in French but, surprisingly, I understood quite a lot.
After the museum, I went and walked on the Seine and then went to the