I fell in love yesterday with the Rodin Museum. He chose the building himself and donated all his work to the state. It is a beautiful old hotel that used to house artists and their studios (including Rodin himself), and it is surrounded by a lovely garden, now dotted with sculpture.
I did one watercolor in the garden (I want to go back and do more) and then headed inside to see the collection. I did lots of sketches. I adore Rodin's work, and sketching helps me look closely and remember well.
The collection also included a painting by Edvard Munch of the Thinker in the garden of a German doctor who was a patron to both artists. I love Munch as well and have several books of his work. I had no idea this painting existed and was delighted to come face to face with it.
I ended the day with an hour plus walk along the Seine and a Nutella crepe from a sidewalk stand. The perfect Paris day.
I'm having a little trouble deciding how much sketching I want to so and how much time I want to spend seeing the sights. Yesterday I got out pretty briskly and sketched in the neighborhood since I had to take the cat to a vet appointment at 11:00.
Above is the town hall of the neighborhood I'm in, and it's the building where my hosts got married.
After the vet trip it was quite cloudy, so I went to the Louvre instead. It's overwhelmingly large. I was there for hours, was picky about the paintings I spent time with, and I still didn't quite make it through all of just the Dutch paintings. I'm going to have to do it in chunks.
Above is the page of sketches I did while I was there. I loved seeing the young, cocky, ambitious self portrait of Rembrandt next to the older one just in his regular painting gear and really owning his identity as a painter.
The other sketches are of small oils done by Peder Balke, a Norweigan artist commissioned to follow the footsteps of a previous expedition and paint the landscapes. What a cool job to get! I was charmed by the series. It was a good, if overwhelming, day.
After lengthy public transport rides yesterday I decided to stay closer to home and get my bearings in my new neighborhood. It's a lovely place, near both Montmartre and the funky shop neighborhood of Abbesses. I started there, cruising down the Rue Daremont on my way, checking out charcuteries and art stores as I went.
I set up to do my first piece of a corner building covered with vines I'd spotted out with my hosts my first night on France.
Then I walked on, visited the Art Deco church in Abbesses. It has lovely murals and stained glass, as well as the loveliest roll of honor I've ever seen, done in brilliant mosaic.
I wound my way up the hill of Montmartre to the Sacre Coeur and was surprised to find such crowds of tourists. It felt like downtown all of a sudden. That church also had lovely mosaics. I fell for the small, intimate, modern stations of the cross that line the ambulatory.
I finished having lunch at a cafe in a busy square, more for the view and the table to draw at than for the food.
I took a nap, did grocery shopping, and did a smaller circle of the neighborhood before cooling dinner. I now feel quite confident getting myself around the diagonal streets, so different from the grid of Memphis that I'm used to. It's nice to start feeling at home here.
I'm back in Paris and saw off my host family on their trip to America. It was a gorgeous day, and I decided to get out and walk and see some of the sights.
I started by painting the Gare St. Lazare. I found out today that the bus that sails downtown on a Sunday morning is painfully stalled in weekday traffic. So I jumped ship at Gare St. Lazare.
It felt a little silly to tear up in a train station, but I had the poster of Monet's amazing painting of this place on my wall all through middle and high school. It was powerful to be there in person.
After doing the sketch I hopped the Metro downtown and just walked to get my bearings and see the sights. Since I had gone towards Notre Dame last week, I walked down the Champs Élysées this time. It was busy and crowded, so not somewhere I'll revisit often, but fun to see.
I also hadn't seen the Eiffel Tower up close yet, so I found a quieter street and worked my way over.
There was a tiny spring festival going on just at the base, so I dived in to see and came our with a blue polka dot scarf and a little paella.
I walked back away from the tower and towards a metro station that would take me home. I loved seeing all the Parisians out enjoying their parks and public spaces.
I successfully made it to Chartres the second time. I've remembered this trip how much I enjoy train travel. Unlike plane trips, you show up maybe ten minutes ahead of time, and instead of being trapped in hermetically sealed buildings during layovers, you can just walk outside to sit in the sunshine.
I did the above sketch at Le Mans, and Tours had a gorgeous promenade with a double row of sycamore trees where I spent my half hour there.
Chartres was lovely. I grew up madly in love with gothic cathedrals, thanks to early visits to my mom's school chums (she graduated from the University of Edinburgh). Chartres has the added bonus of many, many intact windows of jewel-like Medieval glass. The deep blues and reds are amazing.
I spent more time as a tourist than as an artist. I pored over each window, trying to decipher the stories frame by frame with the help of two guide books (my totally dorky side).
I also loved the labyrinth set into the stones of the nave. Sadly, it was largely covered with chairs so I couldn't walk the maze, but it was powerful just to stand with my feet on that pilgrage place and, especially at this transition time in my life, think about walking a path that God has laid out for me.
I did finally do a watercolor as well. There's a lovely small garden beside the cathedral, and I'm enjoying formal gardens this trip.
One last night in my room at Azay le Rideau let me sketch it, since it's now much loved spot and something of a haven. I'd forgotten how much I love a slanted ceiling and a skylight.
I also painted the chimney pots at dusk. I don't think I've noticed such literal "pots" as I have on my trip here. Delightful.
So I was supposed to go to Chartres today, but I utterly failed to navigate the public transportation system. I looked up the train schedule on the French rail website, which has been beautifully reliable up until now, hauled my two packs the 20 minute walk to the station, and waited in perfect solitude for a train that never appeared.
Apparently the train website gives bus connections too, so somewhere (not at the train station), a bus was leaving that I needed to be on.
I took it as a sign that I was supposed to be enjoying the delightful Hotel de Biencourt, and my bed with both sun and moonbeams, for one more night. I had been sad to leave, so I'm quite happy for one more night.
I also celebrated by eating lunch from the marvelous patisserie one more time (though I may run get dinner there as well). I had a marvelous quiche and then this lovely tart.
I painted it as well, since I can't actually take it with me. That's it at the top of this post.
Her's a chocolate tart I had several days ago. Everything I've tried has been marvelous.
So tomorrow I'll try again for Chartres, but today I'm happily enjoying the sunbeam from the skylight over my bed.
I'm so enjoying my stay here (basic things like a lovely room at the Hotel de Biencourt and some marvelous food) that I spent a third night here. I walked out this morning to sketch on the town and found the weekly market going, so I bought some apples and did a sketch.
For lunch I ate at a cafe just up from my hotel, mostly for the view, and sketched my street. I become a self indulgent urban sketchers in Europe and gravitat to sidewalk cafes for comfort and refreshment while working. Not generally an option in America, sadly.
There's a skylight above the bed in my room. I'm up under the eaves in a delightful space, and I was even more self indulgent after lunch and took a nap in a sunbeam. In a supreme act of will, I pried myself back out around 3:30 to revisit the chateau grounds before leaving tomorrow. I love the trees there and did twofer sketches of them. Overall, a lovely day.
I walked out from Azay le Rideau yesterday to visit a chateau garden. It was maybe three miles out there, which was good for burning off all the marvelous food I've been eating. It was a slightly less than pleasant walk, however. There was no shoulder on the road whatsoever. Pedestrians get great respect in towns here, but this road, at least, did not offer a good space for them.
It felt great to stretch my legs, however, and the gardens were fun. The French don't seem to have the robust topiary I'm used to in English gardens. I'd hoped to paint some of those funky shapes. The gardens do reflect the long history of delicate, courtly French art, which makes sense now that I think of it. And I found a high enough viewpoint to get some good pattern in my composition.
It was chilly and kind of late, so I only did one. Here are another couple of photos of the garden.
I loved that they had a garden of dance.
I took the train to Azay le Rideau today. I'm staying just beside one chateau, which I toured and painted today, and there's another chateau with more gardens two or three miles out of town that I can walk to tomorrow.
For some reason I was just worn out today, and I don't think the top painting is one of my best, but I was more happy with the pair of sycamores I painted. They are just lovely and are also on the chateau grounds.
Here's a photo of the chateau, since I didn't do it justice.
Martha Kelly is an artist and illustrator who lives and works in Memphis, Tennessee.
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