Paris - what a delightful place. We treated Zee's Mum for her 60th birthday with a weekend visit to Paris, and it was excellent. We braved the Metro (not as nice as the London tube, I have to say) - I found a little pastry bakery within half an hour of being there and oh, their chocolate eclairs! Oh French pastries, there is nothing like it anywhere. It's always best in Paris. I ate at least one chocolate eclair everyday I was there, and several pain au chocolat's or croissants at every opportunity. As always, breakfast was my favourite meal. Paris is all kinds of delicious.
Our hotel was a wonderful little boutique just down from the Eiffel Tower. We did much wandering, only lightly foiled by the weather. There was much amazing food (Pasco was especially delightful) and we did several fun stops - The Eiffel Tower, The Arc De Triomphe, Montmartre (where I got my portrait done in the artists square) and Musee d'Orsay.
I especially loved that Musee d'Orsay. It's FILLED with treasures. I was awed by Degas and his dancers, his Little dancer of 14 years in particular, and how he was pushing for realism in an era where art was more polished into a palatable view. (I read The Painted Girls last year which I think definitely influenced how these pieces resonated). I loved The dance studio where he showed the work, the pain and toil that goes into each glittery show (and how he tried to show the truth, his painting had a watering can used to wet the floors so the dancers wouldn't slip). He had all the dancers pose in his studio, so he could slot them in. It's a mix of art and realism that was apparently not shown at that time.
I loved the little funny story between Manet and his extra broccoli (he was commissioned for a painting of white broccoli, and when he was paid there was an unexpected bonus, so he painted a one off of a forgotten broccoli, and sent it along). I was struck by The Gleaners by Millet, how it's truth (non stylised poverty) was scandalous in the French upper class - he was considered a social critic of his time and said so much with this painting, especially when compared to Jules Brentons, Calling in the Gleaners (which, because it portrayed the workers in a more idealised version was lauded, and bought by Napolean). I dallied by Monets waterlilies (I could spend hours in front of Monet's waterlilies).
One of my favourites was this one (pictured) of Van Gough, and his starry night over the Rhone. He wrote to his brother a rather epic description and it's lovely. He committed himself to a mental institution shortly after finishing it, which I found interesting.
I was surprised at how interesting the context around each piece was - they're presented as stand alone pieces but no one creates in a vacuum. The more I discovered about each piece that resonated the more interested I became, often delving into a Wikipedia rabbit hole. Loved it. I could spend days wandering the halls of Musee d'Orsay.