Apr 26, 2009

Wandering Musée d'Orsay: Art that Caught My Eye

Here's a small photo selection of random art that I found remarkable at Musée d'Orsay:

Georges Lacombe: Isis. Whoa! What an incredibly powerful image.

Vincent Van Gogh: La méridienne. Rich textures of paint that can really only be fully appreciated when seen in person.

Camille Pissarro: Entrée du village de Voisins. I was charmed by the stunning photo realism. It made me want to walk down this road.

Pierre Auguste Renoir: La balançoire

Pierre Auguste Renoir: Bal du moulin de la Galette. The dappled light in these two paintings were astonishing in person. It was something I had never noticed before in the photos I've seen of these paintings in books.

Georges Rochegrosse: Le Chevalier aux Fleurs. 1894. This gigantic painting made me laugh. It made me think of Jung and how much we project our own reflection onto our symbolic ideal mates.

Winslow Homer: Nuit d'été. The use of light and dark in this painting evoked in me a great sense of tension, drama and foreboding. 

François-Rupert Carabin, Albert Gabriel Servat: Bibliothèque. This is my favorite piece of furniture on display. Wow. Can't go wrong with a surreal totem of carved faces as an ornate cabinet facade. 

Maurice Denis: Les muses. These ladies just inspire me.

All these photos were taken by me while wandering around Musée d'Orsay.

Apr 25, 2009

Wandering Musée d'Orsay: the space inside

Let me begin by saying I love not only the space but also the use of space in Musée d'Orsay. Housed in the former Gare d'Orsay railway station, which was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 along the river Seine's left bank, this magnificent edifice is itself a stunning work of art. The transformation of the station into a museum was done by ACT architecture group from 1980 to 1986.

The grand nave:
The formidable gallery rooms:

The second level terraces where the sculptures are exhibited is a wonderful use of space. It gives the sculptures room to breathe in the open air of the nave's arched ceiling and it gave me the impression of strolling through a stone garden. 

Views out of the third level windows:

All these photos were taken by me while wandering the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Related: Degas's Dancers

Apr 24, 2009

Wandering Musée d'Orsay: Degas's Dancers

It's been a fairly uneventful week for photos so I've decided to go back to Paris. Musée d'Orsay is one of those places where non art-historians can walk around and recognize many paintings and sculptures from popular culture. Today I'm starting my series on art that caught my eye while wandering around Musée d'Orsay. I can only hope you enjoy my taste too. 

Degas was known as a racist old curmudgeon and dedicated misanthrope but I didn't let his personality stand in the way of appreciating the masterful way he captured human movement. His art is fluid, beautiful and inspiring.
His controversial Little Dancer of Fourteen Years .
A few of the more than 150 sculptural works found in his studio after his death in 1917.
I was captivated by the movement in this oil painting called Ballet Rehearsal on Stage.

photos by me. art by Degas.

Apr 19, 2009

Hoces del Río Duratón

"Hoces del Río Duratón" Nature Reserve is a few kilometers drive from Sepúlveda along mountain roads, and past quarries. The gorge is stunning with reddish rock and an unusually green river.

Here you'll find many vultures soaring high and low looking for food.

This is also the location of the Hermitage of San Frutos, which is now in ruins:

A closer look at the stone walls inside the hermitage.
A look inside the hermitage's church.

All these photos were taken by me on my excursion to medieval Spain last weekend.

Apr 18, 2009


Sepúlveda is a pretty Romanesque village nestled in the mountains that enjoyed its heyday in the 11th and 12th centuries. It's located about 130 km north of Madrid in the province of Segovia, and like Pedraza, this village is also a Historic-Artistic Site.
The village from across the way:
The road into the village:
Beautiful, picturesque vistas

Old stairs leading to the church:
Bird nest in the main square.

Apr 17, 2009


Pedraza is a walled hilltop medieval village with only one entrance, the Puerta de la Villa. Declared to be a Historic-Artistic Site in 1951, my students tell me that the main square is one of the most beautiful in Castilla y León. 

Below is a closeup of the spiked castle door. 
The close up of the church door.

Apr 12, 2009

An Excursion to Medieval Spain

Yesterday, M and I were lucky enough to be invited along on an excursion to a couple of Medieval towns North of Madrid. My new Spanish friends, Alma and Jose drove us first to Pedraza, famous for its main town square. 

After a picnic lunch in the square, we headed off to Sepulveda, another mountain top medieval town, which was declared Historic-Artistic Site in 1951. 

Since the predicted rain didn't fall and force us indoors, we next went to a nature reserve called Hoces del río Duratón where we saw an unusually green river that has been carving its way through the mountains for thousands of years.

All these photos were taken by me. 

This is just a taste. Next weekend, I'll post about each place in more photographic detail. 

Apr 10, 2009

Au Virage Lepic, a Montmartre Bijou de Gastronomie

Buttery croissants, a giant bowl full of moules accompanied by a side of fat frites, fluffy broccoli quiche, duck confit, crème brûlée, yes indeed, one of the highlights of our Paris weekend was definitely the food. As it should be.

On our last night in Paris, we decided to wander down Rue Lepic and look at the menus in the windows. Loads of restaurants had pricey menus and so so decor. Luckily for us, we happened to stumble upon a bijou de gastronomie! Au Virage Lepic on Rue Lepic 61, is a tiny, quaint bistro run by the charming duo of Rino and Maurice. The walls were covered with small framed photographs of stars from France and Hollywood's golden age. Red and white checkered handkerchiefs dangled cunningly from antique light fixtures, giving the place a warm glow. Blues and classic soul music filled the room and mingled with the bustling sounds of the packed bistro. When we walked into the already crowded place the owners were uncertain they could seat us, one said "wait", the other said "impossible". In the end they found us a table tout de suite and we had an incredibly delicious meal. 

We started with a mushroom salad that was the perfect combination of crisp raw mushrooms, lettuce, thinly sliced prosciutto and a lightly flavored oil dressing. Then I had the duck confit, salt-cured duck slow cooked in its own juices that fell off the bone and melted in my mouth. I will have dreams about this delectable dish for a long time.. For dessert we shared the crème brûlée and it was perfect. The service was attentive and friendly, the food excellent, and the prices very reasonable. 

There's not one negative thing I can say about this place. Just why Au Virage Lepic, is so popular with the Monmartre village locals and bohemian bourgeois is abundantly clear. It is a rustic bistro with tasty traditional French food, but I suggest making reservations because I think we simply lucked out with getting a table that Saturday night. Next time I'm in Paris, my belly and tongue will undoubtedly compel me to visit this bistro again. Encore. Encore.

Photos taken by me between yummy courses at Au Virage Lepic, in Montmatre, Paris.

Apr 9, 2009

River Boating along the Seine

When I was in Paris last summer, M and I rented bicycles and rode around the Seine, Left Bank, and Notre Dame area. At one point, while cruising across one of Paris's gorgeous bridges we passed a musician playing the theme song to Amelie on his accordion and this moment has lingered in my memories like a magical dream. Biking around the city is an awesome way to experience Paris.

During this spring visit to Paris with my brother, however, we decided that boating along the river was definitely the thing to do. We didn't want to go on one of those guided tours or dinner boats so we opted for the Batobus, which is a shuttle that allows you to get on and off at various stops along the Seine. A day pass is 12 euros, so we took two round trip tours to get our money's worth, first in the afternoon and the second near sunset. I won't kid you, it was damn chilly outside but inside the plexiglass enclosure of the Batobus it was warm and cozy. I, being the shutterbug that I am, chose to stand outside at the back of the Batobus and take as many photos as I could of the passing scenery. How I wished I had brought gloves. For the last 15 minutes before our stop I begrudgingly had to seek the warmth of the indoors. With regret, I watched our approach to the Eiffel tower from behind plexiglass.

After we got off at the Eiffel stop, we crossed the queue filled underbelly of the Eiffel, past the East Indians laden with large metal rings carrying dozens and dozens of miniature Eiffel Tower keychains (3 for a euro), and wandered around the park. I was a little disconcerted by the murders of crows picking at garbage, squawking, and perching on tree branches. The place seemed like it belonged to the crows so we kept walking. We searched for a cheap place for lunch. We ended up at a brasserie with a neglectful waiter who couldn't be bothered (even after 3 requests) to bring a very thirsty Shehani some water until the very end of the meal. Most annoying. After we'd been fed and watered we spent a few hours at the Musee d'Orsay. The Paris weather was as moody and temperamental as a young lover. rain. sun. rain. sun. clouds. more sun. then rain. then sun again... Every time we looked out the gigantic windows while in the museum, we saw Paris's mood change.

It was downright cold on our second voyage on the Batoboat. This time I stayed inside for most of the trip. As we approached the opulently ornate Pont Alexandre III, I went out to brave the cold and snap photos as the sky turned evermore pink and magenta.

The back of the Batobus was crowded with a group of stereotypical sounding New York girls all taking turns to get their photo with the Eiffel Tower behind them. The pretty, skinny, long dark-haired mother hen of the group kindly offered to take my photo with the Eiffel Tower for me in slow English and the universal sign language of the clicking finger because, obviously, no Asian person speaks English, right? "DO...YOU...WANT... [clicking finger]". I was taken back and offended for a beat. Then I considered her offer for a further beat. Then I said, "Nah, that's alright." I was out there freezing my hands off for a reason: to try and capture the Eiffel Tower at sunset with the carousel lights, flags and river below it. She smiled and rubbed my arm. I shook my head on the inside and went back to my shutterbugging.
River boating is without a doubt a wonderfully relaxed way to see the charming architecture, river and bridges of this magical city.

All these photos were taken by me at the back of the Batobus on the river Seine in Paris.
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