brief paris notes

I went to Paris for a week at the end of spring. Thought I'd see what I'm still thinking about a month later--plus three pictures. 

pink hydrangea

I regret that I'm not a beast
running along a blue path,
telling myself to believe
and my other self to wait a little,
I'll go out with myself to the forest
to examine insignificant leaves.
I regret that I'm not a star
running along the vault of the sky,
in search of the perfect nest
it finds itself and earth's empty water,
no one has ever heard of a star giving out a squeak,
its purpose is to encourage the fish with its silence.

And then there's this grudge I bear,
that I'm not a rug, nor a hydrangea.

--Alexander Vvendensky (1934) tr. Matvei Yankelevich 

between delacroix's apartment and the studio, someone's blue umbrella

We saw the Eugene Delacroix museum, which is inside an apartment where he lived, and includes his studio. Exiting at the back of the apartment, you go down a short flight of stairs, where you can turn into the garden or the studio. The studio is wonderful. At the entrance, an old newspaper article is displayed, including a line-drawing rendition of how the studio looked when Delacroix worked there. You take a look at the newspaper, and then go into the room itself. The room seems smaller in person—but the big central window overlooking the garden brings in light. 

In Giverny, the exhibit at the Musée des impressionnismes was "Impressionism and the Sea." This was perfect: flowers are beautiful, but the sky and the water are my true loves. The paintings I was most drawn to were by Eugène Boudin, an artist unknown to me. Clouds, restless water, calm water, boats. I’d like to go to Honfleur someday and see the museum dedicated to him. 


When people ask about my trip, I’ve mostly been telling them about an exhibit I saw at the Musée des arts decoratifs called "The Dawn of the Department Store: Fashion, Design, Toys, Advertising. 1852-1925." I was interested in the historical foundation that informs the exhibit (and, as I learned, much of Paris itself): Georges-Eugene Haussmann's redevelopment and renovation of the city. This was all new to me—I had no idea that Haussmann's architectural sensibilities are largely responsible for Paris' distinctive look. Learning about this brought home just how little I know about Paris. I was looking around, feeling how old things were, without much context for how it all came to be. There's usually some element of incomprehension when visiting a new city, but I felt it keenly in Paris for some reason.

More on architecture: I was stunned by Notre-Dame. The cathedral reopens later this year, but even among cranes and scaffolding, even from a distance, from the other side of a barrier, it's impossible not to feel its presence. 

Since coming back, I’ve been wanting to learn more about buildings. I got an old book about Notre-Dame by Allan Temko (Notre-Dame of Paris, 1955). And noted a few other architecture books on my shelf that I haven’t read yet:

  • The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable / Harbison
  • Learning from Las Vegas / Venturi, Scott Brown, Izenour
  • The Poetics of Space / Bachelard

It’s hard for me to stay focused on one topic for a long time, so I'll probably cycle in and out of books about buildings. For now I'll start with the Notre-Dame book, and see where it goes.

Tags: art, travel, architecture, poetry

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