Paris: A Moveable Musing

An Artist’s Travel Journey

Rose Garden, In Musée Rodin, by Jim Stokes

Rose Garden, In Musée Rodin by Jim Stokes

Written by Jim Stokes


Some years back about the time the Clinton Administration balanced America’s books, there was crazy talk in the air of a peace dividend. The global travel industry, briefly surpassed the value of the global armaments industry. This brief moment gave many folks hope for this world; hope that the values of art, wacky concepts like education, exploration and fostering communication and understanding, might just lead us all to a better world…

And now I am in Paris. It is so great to visit a town with a lot of art museums. As any city with more than a dollop of moxie, this city has been racing to put up modern art museums with showplace architecture. Paris originated this trend with the Centre Georges Pompidou in the Beaubourg area of Paris near Les Halles. The Centre itself is a post-modern confection of exposed pipes and beams and glass. It is here you will see many Picassos; and also amazing exhibitions including the likes of Lichtenstein, Dali and Calder.

Burghers, No Fries by Jim Stokes

Burghers, No Fries by Jim Stokes

There are almost too many museums to visit. It seems that Paris has a great museum for each day of the week and many more obscure and quirky ones as well.

My favorite is The Rodin Museum, just kitty corner from Les Invalides which is the big shiny dome where Napoleon is buried. By most accounts, the Rodin is never crowded by Parisian standards. And what a treat it is!

After 1900 when Rodin was number one in world sculpture, his principle workplace was Rue Meudon, a suburb of Paris. This location was mostly for showcasing new projects.

However, here at Musée Rodin on Rue Varenne, there is a former chapel that has a relaxed display of all Rodin’s major marbles. The grounds are wonderful with a lush pruned rose garden in front of the main house. The garden is perfectly augmented with a sound sculpture installation of hidden speakers and trigger sensors that release a subtle interplay of sound around many of Rodin’s key works in bronze.

The great thing about Rodin’s house is that remarkably, it has been left largely as it was. The first floor’s heavy dark wood paneling is old and creaky from the humidity of a hundred winters. It really lets you imagine carousing and backslapping and animated discussions of the latest artistic triumph or scandal from back in Rodin’s day. One easily imagines his muse Camille Claudel, and Rodin’s many brilliant assistants and models in these spaces.

Reflections on Balzac by Jim Stokes

Reflections on Balzac by Jim Stokes

As I wander from one area of the museum to another, I note that it is so wonderful to see the sketch models for what became the great French writer, Balzac. In one sketch he has a pointy moustache; in another a leg jutting out as if he were a wrestler or juggler in a circus. The sketches and studies are so illuminating… compelling for anyone with an interest in squeezing a bit of clay about, or people interested in the origins of creativity.

Afterwards, a wander on fashionable boulevards awaits. I am off to a relaxing cafe to think about how much things change and how much they stay the same…

Ah, Paris…

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