Monday, March 21, 2005

Paris on the Potomac

Very briefly, I will mention that D.C. is putting on a citywide program called "Paris on the Potomac," spotlighting the French influences on the District. Since French architect and city planner Pierre L'enfant had a similarly strong influence on D.C. as Baron Haussman had in that role on the city of Paris, D.C. has a lot of structural similarities to Paris--big boulevards and roundabouts and a lovely mall.

The wonderful main art museum, the National Gallery, is having several exhibits on French painters in honor of Paris on the Potomac. In the modern East Wing, one gallery exhibits the Fauve artists, artists who used lots of bright color in unlikely places, with a lot of Henri Matisse paintings (one of my favorites!). Another exhibit features small French paintings of different movements from the mid to late 19th Century.

Open Window, Collioure, 1905
A Fauvist Matisse piece at the National Gallery

The other exhibit I made it to was one that opened Sunday called "Toulouse-Lautrec in Montmartre" an exploration of the painting, influences, neighborhood, and friends of the great French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The exhibit is organized pretty well, with Lautrec's subjects grouped together under a general chronological continuity. Particularly interesting is Lautrec's interest in portraying the loneliness of individuals in group situations, a great paradox of urban life. He has a particular empathy for the prostitutes of Montmartre who he portrays a lot, and his famous advertisements for cabaret acts that have come back in vogue today are on display too.

So glad the great city of D.C. is spotlighting the great city of Paris! I only wish I could be here for the Cherry Blossoms!

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