The gray clouds purged themselves once more today as the City of Lights remained dimmed and dampened by the rain that, like me, hung around for another day.
The chill of fall was in the air as the breeze blew through the City, no sun to warm it's gentle sting...er...caress. Scarves and trench coats were as normal a sight as, say, long lines at the Eiffel Tower.
Aside from the positive aspect of getting to spend an extra day in Paris, there was the excitement of what that extra meant for me. If you've kept up with these adventures of a solo traveler (I finished reading The Phantom of the Opera during my crépe and cafè crème this morning), you know that the Water Lillies rooms in the Musée de l'Orangerie were closed through 12 Septembre. If you've seen your calendar today you know it's 13 Septembre. That means...you guessed it...I got to see the Water Lillies. As frustrating as a cancelled flight can be, this circumstance certainly had more than one upside.
I was not prepared for the beauty that awaited me just beyond the concrete opening that led to the two oval rooms that housed the Lillies. The cold gray of the sky -- and the structure's interior -- gave way to the delicate warmth of Monet's Water Lillies as they hung, panoramic around the rooms, forever caught in their tranquil grace. Morning. Afternoon. Evening. There is color. And then there is Monet's use of color. Dark purples, sea green-blues, blue-greens, sea foam green, burgundy, brilliant blue, pink, yellow. Blends. Swirls. Up close you can see the brush strokes and maybe not quite put into focus the picture. But stepping away brings it all together. One can actually see ripples in the water. There's truth, illusion, and beauty from a distance.
I was like a child on Christmas morning; running into the family room, starring at all the packages under the tree. I walked round and round the oval rooms, marveling at what hung in front of me. My eyes observed and absorbed. I soaked in it and soaked it in. Does it get any better than seeing art hanging in the rooms it which it was designed to hang? The scope and size of these paintings was unlike anything I can recall seeing before. I've seen large painings, but nothing quite as majestic. Even with the lack of skylight illumination (gray skies be damned) they were stunning.
Downstairs there was a long wall full of Renoir. That place. That museum. It was the one that inspired me. The pieces were hung in the open (no protective glass Mona) for close examination (no protective stanchions, Venus). The paintings seemed truly to be art for the people; for us, the visitors, to admire and enjoy.
Matisse was there. And Picasso; Cézanne. Works by great artists that were close enough to touch. (That action would be discouraged and frowned upon.)
I often find myself wondering why some art is considered so fabulous or important. Then I remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder and an artist's particular style can change the art form. Not everyone can do what some of these artists did. Not everyone can sing, dance, act, or write. Not everyone can paint. Not everyone can be a creative artist.
To be an artist takes vulnerability. One has to put himself -- his vision, his point of view -- on display for all the world to admire, gawk at, or possibly, loathe. We humans are fickle, opinionated creatures. We can love you one minute then leave you the next. We might then have a change of heart and find a reason you were important all along. Or maybe we just pretend you never really mattered at all. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. And opinions, positive and negative, really don't matter as long as the artist is pleased with his finished product.
Upon exiting Musée de l'Orangerie, the sun had broken through the gray clouds. Even as sprinkles continued to fall from the stranglers, patches of blue sky were beginning to reveal themselves, daring you not to see them. "Look up! Look. Up."
Art dares you to see it. It challenges you. It makes you question what you're seeing, reading, watching. It begs you to feel something. Like any artist, the Universe is no different. It begs you to open your eyes and see, inhale deeply and smell, savor the taste of the wine, hear the music in the sounds around you.
I accepted your challenge, dear Universe. I survived the rain and smiled at the sunshine and blue sky. I saw it. I knew how happy I should be and I was. I listened, and I savored.
Merci, Paris pour le plaisir de votre compagnie.