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Savoring the Art of Paris

Don Rose 17 May 2018 No Comment

The newest of this city’s art venues–opened only a month ago–is a 183-year-old, two-story high, 34,000-square-foot former foundry, stripped down to bare walls and steel pillars, where you stand surrounded by an astonishing digital movie based on the art of Gustav Klimt projected on all four sides (and some viewers bodies). The Viennese painter’s magnificently colored portraits of exquisitely dressed ladies are shown whole, in pieces, deconstructed, reconstructed, seamlessly melting into each other and into abstract and representational backgrounds, a flowing river of color while the music of Mozart, Wagner, Mahler and others fills the room.


   In addition to the Klimt film, there are shorter ones about Klimt’s turn-of-the-Twentieth-Century Viennese “Secession” movement plus an original contemporary work.

   “Amazing” is a vastly overworked word these days, but  it fits this perfectly.    It is L’Atelier des Lumieres, the first venue of its kind here, an astonishing show that Paris took immediately to its heart–thus lines two blocks long  stretched in both directions one Sunday afternoon.

   There’s always something new and exciting here, along with more conventional but outstanding exhibits such as the Louvre’s exhaustive retrospective of one of the greatest French painters, Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863), the romantic best known for his painting of the bare-breasted Liberty “leading the people.” But he had an enormous range of subjects, from the battlefield to the boudoir, plus historical and biblical scenes such as a painful one of women removing arrows from the body of St. Sebastian, all masterly in detail and light.

   On the other hand, the Picasso Museum featured an unusual, innovative show, devoting 10 rooms to the historic background and step-by-step creation of the master’s iconic “Guernica”–that heart-rending tribute to the city’s destruction by Franco’s troops during the Spanish Civil War–with its haunting,  silently screaming victims. Included are sketches plus numerous oil takes of parts of what became the mural-size masterpiece. The original can’t leave Spain, but several full-size representations keep you grounded.

    Yet another special show, this at the Pompidou, featured works by  Russians Marc Chagall, Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky created during the early days of the Revolution when there was a genuine avant garde movement before Stalin decreed that all art must be socialist realism. Must also mention another wonderful Pompidou exhibit by the renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt, whose impressive images range from nature to industry to impoverished blacks and perspiring mineworkers.

   No matter how well you think you know art history, there are always exhibits here to introduce you to excellent artists you hardly knew at all, such as the Czech Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957), a brilliant colorist and pioneer of abstraction. A retrospective at the Grand Palais gallery traces his development from representational and symbolist works into pieces of pure abstraction–anticipating Mondrian and others.

   Speaking of unknowns, we were especially delighted by a showing at the Orsay Museum of early 20th Century modernist paintings by a dozen Baltic-nation artists. Who would have known there were such?

   That’s another thing that makes these Parisian visits so valuable–and I’ve given you but a taste of the riches of this trip.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

image  Atelier des Lumières in Paris

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