In the early decades of the century, Montparnasse – named after the mountain home of Apollo and the muses – saw a concentration of artistic talent so vibrant that the quarter’s myth came to rival that of its ancient namesake. Struggling young painters and sculptors from all over the world were drawn to its ateliers. At dusk they filled the cafés, cadging drinks and boasting. If they were flush, they moved on to headier pleasures like a Dadaist play, a fancy-dress ball or a raucous supper at the Closerie de Lilas. But with World War II, the feast moved on, and today the neighborhood holds only echoes of old glory. Those seeking the essence of the 14th arrondissement will have better luck in the 7th, at the Espace Electra’s excellent “Les Heures Chaudes de Montparnasse.” Continue reading “Remembering Montparnasse’s Art Scene”
In a business all about reaching out and grabbing the eye, fashion photographer Sarah Moon is an exception. She lures it. Her pictures are so mysterious, so private, so dramatically loaded, they’re like a world through a keyhole, and viewers can’t resist looking closer.
“If someday you have a few months to spare, come to Barbary…you will feel the precious and exceptional influence of the sun, which gives everything a piercing life.” Just over 160 years ago, Eugène Delacroix left a wan Paris winter for a six-month adventure in North Africa. While few of us can jump up and follow his footsteps, following his brush strokes is an excellent alternative. Delacroix in Morocco – a gathering of his painted mementos – is on exhibit until January 15 at the Institut du Monde Arabe.
As one of the earliest professional portrait photographers (and to this day one of the best), Felix Tournachon, known as Nadar, endowed his generation with perpetual faces, enabling us to look into the eyes of history. History currently looks back from the walls of the Musée d’Orsay, where nearly 100 Nadar portraits make up a picture gallery of the Second Empire.
“The true artists are those who take their epoch at exactly the point to which it has been carried by the preceding ages. To retreat is to do nothing, is to work without result, is to have neither understood nor profited from the lessons of the past.”
Every so often back in the ’30s, dark stretches of nighttime Paris would be lit by a sulfurous flash. Brassai was at work, taking pictures in which conventional beauty held little appeal. Like Toulouse-Lautrec, he was a well-born, highly trained visual artist who found inspiration in the down and dirty.
Jim Morrison ate his last meal at Le Beautreillis, a little restaurant near the Place de la Bastille in Paris. What killed him remains murky but the authorities ruled out dinner, so cult followers have flocked to the place ever since. A shrine it may be, but the restaurant serves up more than warmed-over memories. The blini are terrific. And so is the host, a genial Croatian named Verian. He bought the place two years ago, serves honest Slav food, and says he doesn’t much care about the legend of “Jeem.” But his black leather pants tell a different story. So do the the luvmobile up the street and the heaps of Morrison memorabilia threatening to avalanche the restaurant’s side room. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. . .