A day of Van Gogh, Hiroshige, Madeleine church, Closerie de Lilas, Luxembourg Gardens
The next day, Tuesday January 22, we went to the Pinacothèque gallery on the Place de la Madeleine to see a twin show, Van Gogh, rêves du Japon together with Hiroshige, l’art du voyage.
We had been at the Pinacothèque before in 2010 to see a Munch show. Quite an enlightening show when all most people know of Munch is The Scream.
This is the strangest gallery and I couldn’t figure out why it was so little known, why there was so little publicity for it especially when it has featured shows with big name artists such as Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock, Man Ray and a collection from the Dutch Golden Age.
Read this 2010 article on the Pinacothèque in Britain’s Independent which explains it, and this Wikipedia article for a bit of background. Nothing like a rebel in the French world of art.
The show was quite wonderful. I like theme shows, so twinning Van Gogh and Hiroshige works for me. There were 31 Van Gogh’s, all from the Kröller Müller gallery in Holland (second largest collection of Van Gogh’s in the world), with over 200 from Hiroshige (not sure where they came from). The tie-in was Van Gogh’s love of Japan and his collection of Japanese prints which show up in his paintings. For Van Gogh, his trip to Arles and the south of France was a sort of substitute for Japan, and he looked for common elements such as the cherry blossoms, colour palettes and even building styles. This was truly a charming show, a real find. See a slideshow about this show, narrated in French. Read more about Van Gogh and Japanese art here.
Afterwards, we walked around the Place de la Madeleine, which features a peculiar church in the middle, in that it doesn’t look like one (no steeple, Greek columns). Read the Madeleine’s history – it’s an interesting one involving the 1789 revolution, Napoleon and beheaded kings.
The shops in that square are super-deluxe. If you’re looking for the best chocolate, tea and caviar, this is your place. We went to the first two (Patrick Roger the French maniac of chocolate, and Mariage Frères for the world of tea).
After dropping our shopping back at the apartment, it was time for another landmark dining experience. Took the Metro to a stop on Blvd Montparnasse and started walking.
Towards the bottom of Luxembourg Garden I knew we would find the Closerie de Lilas restaurant. Time for a late lunch / early dinner. Hemingway fans will recognize the name, but it has also been the hangout for the whole Parisian world of arts and letters from Cézanne to Picasso, Bacall to Gainsbourg. It’s been there since 1847 and still going strong.
To keep up the new tradition, we started with champagne and progressed to Sancerre for the oysters, to be followed by mousseline of pike pour madame and steak tartare pour monsieur. The waiter wanted to make sure that “tourist boy” knew he was ordering raw meat, but I assured him my chef father had made it for us as children, which brought a smile to his face and a promise that the kitchen would make the finest steak tartare for me. And so they did…
After that little feast, we walked the length of Luxembourg Garden and down onto the Blvd St Michel. A little stop in a café to re-energize, and then a twilight walk through the streets of Paris from the 5th, through the 6th and to our apartment in the 7th.
They could charge admission just to walk these streets.