Stumbling upon a museum in Paris has felt to me almost as common as traipsing in and out of the ‘boulangeries’ which dot seemingly every street corner of the city. Well, maybe not to that same degree — Paris boasts an astonishing 30,000-plus bakeries and almost 300 museums — but it certainly seems that way. Much of Parisian life and energy is intertwined with its art, literature and fashion. I really do savor the ability to stroll through a museum at my own pace, opening myself up to its knowledge. I have selected a few of my favorite museums and exhibits to share, ones which have each filled me with unique senses of joy and wonder.
I have found myself in the halls of the train-station-turned-art-museum four times in the past two months, with no plans of stopping anytime soon. My favorite works sit on the museum’s upper level and reflect the impressionist style, composed by painters like Monet, Manet, Degas, Cézanne, Pissarro and Renoir. I love the way each painting’s colors and hues blur and overlap, how a fleeting moment in time is captured in slight, visible brush strokes and how light and movement emanate organically from each tableau through slight bursts of color and texture. One of my favorites is “The Artist’s Garden at Giverny” by Claude Monet, which depicts rows of vibrant violet irises arranged beneath trees that glimmer with light, almost like streams of rain down the canvas. You feel like you’ve been there before, or that you have somehow been brought there instantaneously. You are standing in the garden, feeling the sun and smelling the irises.
Musée Carnavalet, “Un Roman Parisien”
“Un Roman Parisien,” a temporary exhibit currently running in the Musée Carnavalet, centers Marcel Proust himself as an author and displays his relationship to Paris through a mixture of art, literature, historical synopses and immersive elements. I read Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” last semester in a Tufts English class and enjoyed how this exhibit seamlessly blended both the inner worlds of Proust’s novels and the political and social surroundings that influenced it. My favorite elements of the exhibit were the heavily annotated drafts of Proust’s novel and the replica of the bedroom in which the young Marcel sleeps in “In Search of Lost Time.” Together, like the taste of the madeleine dipped in tea which evokes memories of Marcel’s childhood, this exhibit transported me back to that time last semester when I myself began to read his novel.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, “Thierry Mugler, Couturissime”
Paris is home to some of the most fashionable, well dressed people in the world. One of those people was, of course, the late fashion designer Thierry Mugler, whose haute couture reflected avant-garde and theatrical styles blended seamlessly to define his clothing as works of art. This exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs features work from throughout the designer’s career, combining clothing, perfume, colorful lighting, mirrors and film to create a walk-through gallery that traces the evolution of the designer’s work and collections from the past five decades. My preferred piece was a blue, green and purple gown that billowed out in waves at the waist, mimicking the flow of water or the oozing of some other unknown yet intriguing substance. The exhibit, taken in its entirety, imparts the image of Mugler as a fashion pioneer and icon, titles which he has rightfully earned.