Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dimanche au musée / Sunday at the Museum

I spent Sunday afternoon in a museum and was reminded of what wonderful museums you can find in Europe, even in towns which are not the big ones like Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, or Rome.  I’ve visited world-class museums in all those cities, but as I wandered the excellent Musée de Grenoble I was pretty impressed with their building and collection.   The first thing that struck me in the spacious, sun-filled, three-story high main hall was how soaring AND quiet it was.  Museums may be one of the last quiet, solitary places to find a peaceful tourist experience, which I love.

I decided to go back in time from Andy Warhol to the Greeks and Romans, an interesting timeline.  Beautiful women, whether depicted in bold bright silk screen 1960’s psychedelic colors or, the classic icy cool white marble of the Greeks, rule the day.   In between 1960 and 6 B.C., they had some lovely Renoir, Monet, Fantin-LaTour and other well-known French and European masters.

I had forgotten how noisy Renoir’s brush strokes were – you can hear the canvas glow with the fun of the bal musette and cafes of the 1880’s – and the intense quiet of Monet’s watery blue ponds and lily pads.

As the museum was in Grenoble, there was a wonderful roomful of landscape paintings of the Alps, which were clearly views painted after the artist had climbed high into the mountains.  Perhaps he was carried by a burrow or donkey, but whatever he did, it’s amazing to see the mountains so beautifully depicted in a time that was pre-photography, and his efforts to go there and paint, create a legacy for us, a record of the unspoiled beauty of those earlier days.

Thanks to my son, the climber, I am often dragged along on hikes where I get to see equally beautiful scenes and you can’t imagine how stunning it is to see the mountains up close after earning the right, by walking every step of the way up to the summit.  We didn’t climb last weekend when visiting Mount Washington in New Hampshire, but I have climbed up Tuckerman’s Ravine before, as well as stayed at the simple, lovely hut known as Lakes of the Clouds, close to the top of Washington, one of many huts which dot the range of the Presidentials.

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