A few weeks ago, I took my wife and daughters to Paris on a research trip. Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to visit museums and galleries often. Maybe I could soak up some cultural inspiration while enjoying time with the family.
We explored the city of Paris by bicycle, taking in the sights in the Spring sunshine. We started in the Marais, with its cobbled streets lined with old town houses, cafes and galleries. The street art was so colourful and vibrant. The girls were amused to spot the tile mosaics of urban artist ‘Invader’. We went past the apartment block at 17 Rue Beautreillis, where Jim Morrison died. However, judging by the notice we saw pinned there, there is some controversy over this!
We crossed over the Pont de l’Archevêché, now stripped of the ‘love locks’ left by tourists. The authorities are mindful of the tonnage of metal being added to historic bridges which span the River Seine. The Notre-Dame de Paris was impressive with its Gothic Revival architecture, stained glass windows and flying buttresses. Victor Hugos’ famous novel prompted its extensive restoration in the 1840s. This was because the cathedral had sustained damage during the French Revolution. The architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc oversaw the work. Among the controversial improvements was the rebuilding of a taller and fancier spire. Around the spire are copper statues of the twelve apostles. Amusingly, Viollet-le-Duc imposed his own likeness onto the statue of St Thomas, the patron saint of architects.
Of course, no tour of Paris is complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. The remarkable engineering of the structure itself, the intricate shapes of its detailed iron tracery, were striking. The cityscapes were jaw-dropping! I took lots of pictures with my newish Panasonic Lumix TZ100. We could clearly see the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elyssée and Les Jardin des Tuileries. In the distance, the Palais du Louvre was visible where we had been earlier.
At the Musée du Louvre we saw the glass pyramids outside, designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei. There is a wealth of statuary that adorns the courtyard and the building itself. Inside, the creativity on display is extraordinary. The place overflowed with art and artefacts. Terracotta cylinders and clay tablets from the ancient Near East, etched with cuneiform script, fascinated me. They inspired my Mud Tablet 2017. There was beautiful Greek gold jewellery decorated with bulls heads. And I loved the little carved stone fat ladies from Persia. There was so much to see. It was almost overwhelming!
The Winged Victory of Samothrace literally took my breath away. It was created to celebrate a naval sea battle in around 288 BC. The marble sculpture of the Greek Goddess Nike stands over 8 feet tall. She still packs the most extraordinary visual punch, despite her head and arms lost to time. The passion and the skill of the sculptor is simply awe-inspiring. The drapery of her costume with its sensual folds, her thrusting breasts and strong thighs, are rendered with sensitivity. The sculpture manages to convey a sense of movement and stillness simultaneously. She is defiantly standing proud against the elements, her wings torn back, storm ripping past her.
Paul Delaroche’s La Jeune Martyre moved me very much. Delaroche finished the oil painting in 1855, a year before his death. It is typical of the Romantic style of the period. It depicts a young dead Christian woman, hands bound, floating down the River Tiber. There are some similarities with Millais’ Ophelia and both paintings inspire an idea I am developing. The finished work is my River Bed 2017.
The Musée Rodin was another eye-opener. I found it amazing to see displays of his original moulds and of course to view his most famous sculptures. Rodin’s modelling skills are even more extraordinary up close. His rendering of flesh, of a hand, a foot, of anatomical detail, is particularly astounding. His sensual nudes really spoke to me. I found The Awakening or Le Réveil especially beautiful. The nymph Echo kneels on a rock, stretching languorously, her hands behind her head. I also saw Rodin’s Monument to Claude Lorrain. I love the clever placement of the figure, turning mid-step to see the sun rising.
Paris gave me so much inspiration for my sculpting and I am so full of ideas as a result!