My first experience with seeing Rodin’s work was accidental. I was in Philadelphia, part of a four day Bachelor Party trip to the East Coast. The only naked women my three friends and I saw were in paintings and sculptures throughout New York City. We also took a train to Philly to see my dear friend and mentor W.H. Ferguson and his family. They were kind enough to let us borrow their car to drive to the Brandywine Museum to see paintings by N.C. Wyeth, his son Andrew Wyeth, and his grandson Jamie Wyeth.
It was all about the art everyday in every way and it was the best! It was only made better when we had time to kill before our train that night as our trip was coming to a close. We’d walked around the neighborhood and came upon a sign for the Rodin Museum. I couldn’t believe it! Maybe somebody was lost, perhaps they didn’t realize Rodin was Old World Art. But sure as shit, the museum bristled with patrons and statues all over the place. The man was prolific as hell!
But here in Paris, where the heavy-hitters of his career lived, were only shadowed by the very building housing them. Even the grounds around the museum had large bronze-works along garden pathways as if hiding from view.
Curiously more often than not I’d see countless school children being lead from room to room, their teacher walking them through the history and career of the artists. The kids would gather around the base of a statue as the teacher described it’s importance. I understood very little of what she was describing, but the kids were glued to every word. Some had papers and would stand up and read what they wrote about, what I’m assuming is the artist or the statue they did a report on, before moving on to the next room. Believe me, I was jealous! It’s worth noting that while we study our own history in the states, they’re living among the historical relics of the past making the absorption of it so much more visceral. That kind of education can’t be beat.
Anyway, the Rodin museum was grand even with the kids getting under foot. From plaster sketches and small tests to famously large pieces it was so great to be able to move around them. Of course there were busts of famous French aristocrats throughout, as well as larger than life heads and even a painting here and there by artists I didn’t recognize. NOTE: I’ll be sharing videos at a later date of all the statuary I was able to film.
It was reaching midday and I was getting pretty hungry and remembered I’d brought a salad that I made that morning. I headed for a nearby garden, away from the crowds that were starting to descend like seagulls. Finding a bench among the measured stand of trees I sat looking back at The Thinker…thinking about what he was thinking about when Rodin thought about sculpting him. ahem. But then I had a mess on my hands. Literally. Much to my chagrin, the balsamic vinegar was leaking everywhere even though I had double-bagged it. It was a hot mess of lunch that I had to salvage. Thankfully, I was loaded down with napkins and paper towels. As a painter it’s absolutely necessary to have fistful of them on hand!
With my belly full I headed over to the Musee De l’Orangerie to get an eyeful of impressionism. it’s a beautifully modern building not too far from the Tuileries Palace and garden. This is where the MASSIVE paintings of Monet’s LILIES are housed.
Like blow flies to carrion, people hovered in the large oval rooms where the canvasses were mounted on panoramic curved walls. The amount of paint and time and, by CROM this was all so much to digest! Like everyone else, I set about to shoot video of it all, but unlike everyone, I was able to pick my shots devoid of any people by being patient. Though much to the irritation of some waiting to get their own shot. No matter how much I hated the idea, I was a part of the problem. It wasn’t even the busy season yet and there was just too many people to even want to deal with. I’d heard stories that the rooms get so packed you can’t really wrap your head around the scope of these paintings. Luckily there was a lot more paintings to behold. Onward Ho!
Out of the hundreds of shots I took, I’m reticent to show too many here. Instead, you can see them on my PINTEREST BOARD as I upload them with each blog installment.
As the day wore on I was itching to get out and paint. I’d only been here a few days but the stalwart part of me was bound and determined to achieve what I came here for. I headed back to my apartment, made some dinner and then grabbed my gear heading straight for the Trocadero. From Passy it was only a quarter mile away to the plaza where you can see the Eiffel Tower on the West side of the Seine. The area around the plaza is a non-stop milling of people. So many selfies, so many couples trying to carve out that romantic moment with a bottle of wine or champagne along with a hundred other tourists, hucksters, and street performers. I threaded my way through them all avoiding eye contact with the many barkers of useless trinkets to find a quiet little corner all to myself. Surprisingly…I found one.
From my vantage point I could now paint without anyone creeping up behind me. With my back to a granite stone wall and balustrade I was, I thought, hidden from the mob. But while setting up my gear with my hands completely full, a Pakistani gentlemen asked me if I could take his picture along with his wife. I held up my full hands and shook my head ‘no’. There were so many people wanting to document themselves there…I just…I don’t know. I watched as he walked away, not asking anyone else and felt terrible about how selfish I was. I thought about it the entire time I was painting. But hell, man, what was I supposed to do? Drop everything on the littered piss-smelling ground to take their only photo of the them in front of an enormous tower? Maybe.
Surprisingly the painting went smoothly and I wasn’t angered by the results. For a piece of architecture that is essentially all framework and bones I’m surprised it’s as coherent as it is. Using gouache certainly helped in this case as you can paint right over the underlying strokes provided you don’t get the paint too watery. In the dying light of the magic hour speed is of the utmost importance.
Soon after I finished and had everything packed all the lights of the tower turned on and changed everything. The OOHS and AAHS filled the air and wafted over the wall while the iPhones kept clicking away.