Monet to Motorways: French Impressionists

Do you like impressionist art works?  I do, or rather, perhaps, I did.

Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ is a masterpiece. Posters of this fine work adorn cafes and homes world wide – but I recently discovered the painting is just like a mere pixel extracted from a much grander piece of work.

Monet spent the last years of his life working on a single extravaganza that until recently I didn’t know existed. The work comprises two panoramic paintings of the water lily pond in his garden, each stretching the full circumference of its very own oval shaped room, the two oval rooms abutting at their narrowest point to form an elongated figure 8. The painting were created for such rooms and the rooms then constructed to house the works.

L'Orangerie floor Plan

Floor Plan

Panorama_Interior_of_Musée_de_l'Orangerie_2

Wide view of one of the rooms

L'Orangerie (1 of 23)

End of room 2

L'Orangerie (7 of 23)

Portion of one of the side walls

 

A close up of any part of the huge works is a master piece in its own right.

L'Orangerie (5 of 23).jpg

A small portion of one of the panels (pixel size compared to the whole work)

L'Orangerie (11 of 23)

Another close up of a small corner of a panel

 

The paintings are a visual and sensual experience to be shared by young and old alike.

L'Orangerie (14 of 23)

 

I’ve visited galleries dedicated to many artists, but this work housed in the specially constructed Orangerie Museum (Musee de L’Orangerie) is a must see for all. Its located on the Seine in the west corner of the Tuileries Gardens next to the Place de la Concorde in Paris – where the most infamous of the revolutionary guillotines cut out a piece of history for itself.

Post museum discovery …. I went on to discover a whole new subset of modern day French impressionists …. and it seems they are all gainfully employed in their chosen field of endeavor.

Yes, the French employ them to prepare tourist maps. Those maps handed out freely to tourists by the ‘Touristic Informacion’ centers found in every French city and rural hamlet.

Often entitled ‘Walking Tours’ … these hazardous jewels of misinformation sport a mix of multi-coloured lines and shapes interspersed with icons and text. Very pretty !

Following a map literally – rather than just feeling its vibe – is a mistake. Basics such as scale, the direction of North, the inclusion of all streets and street structure (grid vs triangular or other) are all seemingly optional and if included, accuracy is relative. Relative to what, I couldn’t determine – certainly not reality.

Occasionally you actually end up at an identified landmark appearing on the map …. a museum, a Cathedral, a fountain, a park or whatever.  Perhaps even the landmark you were looking for. Such discoveries are all the more wonderful for the finding …. as it’s akin to discovering a pot of gold relying on a treasure hunt map …. whose directions would be considered a class performance by those who prepare cryptic crossword puzzles. Surrealists have cause to be envious. Perhaps Picasso missed his true calling.

Don’t read this as a warning against using them …… For experience sake, don’t avoid these master pieces as they often guide you to places that don’t even exist – or that’s how it feels after hours of being lost in streets not included on the map. These unpublished sites are often the special memories that you recall when ruminating about your day.

To be fair, streets named on a map occasionally make a cameo appearance …. often at ons far removed form where they should be – at least according to the map. Perhaps the streets (or landmarks) wantonly move around at random as you seek them out? Many streets certainly do change names at random intervals along their journey from somewhere to somewhere else, or perhaps to nowhere in particular.

Cursing the maps when lost, or asking locals for directions are equally fruitless enterprises. If time isn’t an issue for you,  I recommend you try out some of these living works of art and enjoy the surprises as they unfold for you.

A written copy of your address t show a taxi driver is your get out of goal card.

I haven’t framed any of the many maps I engaged/wrestled with, but perhaps I should. One day there maybe a museum that collects them.

As for the GPS systems in French hire cars …. I’m not sure whether their data and maps are not properly updated or the French delibrately set out to send the disturbed (me) across the line to enjoy full blown insanity … but that’s another story.

Visit these links to read the story of Monet’s master works at the Musee de  L’Orangerie and the history of the museum itself:

1    Monet’s Lily Pond

2  The Museum Orangerie and its Monet

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