Friday, September 4, 2015

Day 23: The Market and the Picasso Museum

The Market at Place Monge

Within a block of our hotel on Rue Monge was a nice square, over the Metro station, that served as a small park most of the time, but 3 mornings a week it was used for a public market. When we passed there on Wednesday, I noticed that they sold a lot of stuff besides food, and I thought there might be some reasonably priced souvenirs. Anyway, Dan always enjoys an open market, so we went to the market right after breakfast at the bistro across the street, Bistro du Marché.

We had great fun at the market. The morning was fresh and sunny, and we had each had two cups of very strong latte with breakfast so we were wired. The fruits and vegetables looked freshly picked, and they had varieties that I had never seen. It was a visual feast.

I studied many vendors of attractive imports, looking for trinkets that were small and packable. The first thing I bought was a bracelet with little beads that the pleasant vendor claimed to have crafted herself. She put it in a tiny silken bag, which I stuffed in my tote.

Vendor from Seoul, South Korea
While photographing the stalls, Captain Dan discovered one that sold belts. He absolutely insisted that I buy one because I had lost a few pounds on the trip and my pants were bagging. I got the blue and green one.

Vendor from Northern France
I had a very pleasant chat with a fellow from Kashmir, and bought two pure silk scarves from him. The blue and green one I put around my neck; the blue and red one will be a gift. He had been in the import business in France for many years. His English was excellent.

Vendor from Kashmir
The vendors were remarkably friendly and posed readily for photos.

Exploring the Neighborhood

From the market, we went in search of the Post Office—planning to do a mailing the next day. Other pedestrians gave us directions, and it was only 2 blocks away; we looked inside to see how it was set up. We enjoyed walking around our neighborhood, and I noticed a shop that sold ribbon, which I noted for the future. I also noticed a regular supermarket and a huge pharmacy.

When we got back to the hotel, the light was nice on the buildings on Rue Monge.

Hotel Quartier Latin Pantheon
Rue Monge
When I unpacked my souvenirs, I couldn't find the bracelet in the tiny silken bag. I regretted the loss and I felt stupid, but the trinket was cheap and we were planning to visit a similar market in Fontainebleau. 

It was still too early for the Picasso Museum so we walked around our neighborhood. Dan wanted to show me the laundromat he had used, and we got some money at the ATM. He was very pleased by the number of useful services that were convenient to our location. 

Venturing further, we discovered something that seemed amazing to me. Through an archway that looked like the entrance to a building, we found a sandy arena where people were playing a game called boules. By then the sky had turned gray.

On the outer wall we found a plaque for the Square des Arènes de Lutèce. It said, in French, that the arena had been constructed at the end of the first century after Christ. Another plaque said it had been abandoned for many centuries and was rediscovered in the 1860s. The land owners had intended to build something there, but public pressure forced them to allow the area to be restored. It is surrounded by a small park loaded with lovely trees. The open space was very welcome in the dense city, and very well used by locals.

By now the Picasso Museum was open, so we grabbed a taxi and crossed the Seine River to a district that would have been several Metro stations from our neighborhood.

The Picasso Museum

It is my personal view that Pablo Picasso is the greatest artist of the 20th century, and certainly competitive with any artist of any century. Not because I like every painting. Many of his paintings mystify me, and many are just plain ugly. What makes me rate him so highly is that his talent was prodigious, his output was consistently innovative, his scope of styles was comprehensive, and all his work shows passionate engagement with making art. 

Picasso lived a long time and painted compulsively, so his paintings are in many museums. I'm not bragging when I say I've seen hundreds of them. His most famous works are at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Reina Sophia in Madrid. The Picasso Museum in Paris has filler—mostly stuff that had been owned by his heirs that the city picked up in inheritance tax negotiations. Even though it is not his greatest work, the quality is still very high, and the collection gave me a good idea of how his talent developed in the course of his career.

The collection is housed in an old mansion of significant architecture that had been recently restored. The problem with old mansions is that they have many windows, so most of the paintings had annoying reflections on their glass covering. Also, part of the museum was closed for the installation of a new exhibit.

Picasso was born (in Malaga, Spain) in 1881.

1894—Age 13

Academic Study of a Plaster, after the Antique, 1894
1906—Age 25

Self-portrait, 1906
1913—Age 32

Between 1908 and 1914, Picasso and Georges Braque performed experiments in making art that were called Cubism. Cubism is about analyzing objects and reassembling them in an abstracted form. Instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from a multitude of viewpoints. The movement went through many changes but it tended to decompose shapes into geometric units. This logically extended to the creation of collages—art pieced together from various materials and images.

Georges Braque, 1882-1963
Guitar "Program statue d'epouvante,” 1913
Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973
Guitar, glass, Bottle of Marc Brandy, 1913

1918—Age 37

In 1918 Picasso married Olga Khoklova, a 27-year old Russian ballerina. It is interesting to compare his portrait of her that year with a photograph of the pose.

Portrait of Olga in an Armchair, 1918

By 1929 their marriage was in crisis, and this beautiful woman was reduced to a grotesque and hysterical image. Great as he may have been as an artist, Picasso was apparently not much good as a husband. Although he was already involved with Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso refused to agree to a divorce because he didn't want to give Olga half of his property. They remained married until her death in 1955, while Picasso cycled through so many lovers that it is hard to keep them straight.

Large Nude in Red Armchair, 1929
1920s—Picasso was in his 40s

Head of Woman, 1921
Paul en Arlequin, 1924

1933—Age 52

Bust of a Bearded Man, 1933
1937—Age 58

I was amazed by the range of powerful styles he used in 1937. He used the best style for the meaning and the mood.

Large Bather with Book, 1937
Portrait of Nusch Éluard, 1937
The Suppliant, 1937

1944-1953—Aged 63 to 72

During this period, Picasso's lover and artistic muse was Françoise Gilot, a painter and eventually a best-selling author who was 40 years younger than he. They had two children together. She later married Jonas Salk, the American vaccine pioneer.

Portrait of Françoise, 1946
Portrait of Françoise, 1947

1950—Age 69

Some critics think Picasso's sculptures were even better than his paintings, though they are not nearly as well known.

The Goat, 1950
Little Girl Skipping, 1950

1954—Aged 73

In 1953 Picasso, then 72 years old, became enamored of Jacqueline Roque, aged 26, a divorcee who worked in a pottery shop in the French Riviera. He created over 400 portraits of her. They were married in 1961, and the marriage lasted 11 years, until the end of his life. When Picasso died, she got into a dispute over his estate with Francoise Gilot, Picasso's earlier companion and mother of 2 of his children. Eventually the parties agreed to establish the Picasso Museum. Jacqueline shot herself at the age of 59.

Jacqueline with Crossed Arms, 1954
1956—Aged 75

Picasso continued to make art until his death in 1973, at the age of 92, working his way through women and painting styles. He lived in various sunny regions in France.

Picasso's Studio, La California, 1956
After the Museum

When we left the museum around 4 p.m. we were starving. Since we were in Paris, it was only a few blocks to a pleasant restaurant called Camille that offered authentic French cuisine. We were happy to find their claim to be true.

We started with a delicate goose liver paté with toast points and onion jam.

Paté with toast points and onion jam
I had the fish and Dan had the beef, with fresh bread and red wine. It was all good. My dessert was entirely too large and elaborate, but Dan had excellent chocolate mousse.

After our feast, we felt a need to walk, and it was a long time till sundown, so we headed to the hotel on foot, consulting the iPad mapper for directions.

The 1.5-mile walk was highly picturesque and enjoyable, even though the sky was gray. We had to cross the Rue de Rivoli, which has many fashionable shops and entertainment venues. We had a look inside St. Paul's church. Then we crossed the Seine to the Île Saint-Louis, a very small island, and then crossed the river again to get to the Latin Quarter on the left bank, where our hotel was located. Here's a few shots I took along our route.

Marais district
St. Paul Church
Garden of a city palace called Hôtel de Sens
Crossing the Seine to the Île Saint-Louis
Crossing the Seine to the Latin Quarter;
Rear view of Notre Dame
We took our time, enjoying the views of the lovely city and chatting with doormen. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were ready to drop into bed.