The Walk at the Domaine de Chamarande

Question: Where do you take a well-travelled 26-year old boy on a nice Tuesday morning considering that both of you have only few hours to spare?
Answer: Go walking around a Chateau. (It worked!)

Matthew, H’s best friend’s son,  is a Mathematics Research student  at nearby Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques (“Institute of Advanced Scientific Studies”) and ever since he started his studies here six months ago, we haven’t had the chance to get together as we were always away.  Now that we are here for a few days, we agreed to meet up for lunch and go for some Chateau walking.

“What do you need to research in Math for?”, I curiously asked H.   Math is one of those subjects that did not interest me although I got through it with flying colours in lower school when I managed to memorize the multiplication table.  When I reached University, Math has become a pain in my brain cells so I tried avoiding it but always without success.  “I think he’s especializing in Algaebric Mathematics”, said H.  Why do all these  courses that they offer now in universities sound strange.  I remember a daughter of H’s close friend who took up a degree, the name of which was causing me a headache.  It has the word  “Neuro-” and it sounds so complex that I could never get to memorize it.  She finished the degree but her now successful career  has nothing to do with it.

Back to Matthew, how lucky could we get to have set our rendezvous on a clear perfect day as it has been raining incessantly the previous days.  At the Domaine de Chamarande, even if the grounds were a bit muddy, it was still delightful treading through the historic gardens (98 hectares in all) beautifully landscaped with its forest section, meadows, marshland, river, old footbridges while inhaling the sweetness of  fresh air.    There are also modern sculpture spread in various places  as  it also hosts open and closed door art exhibition all year round.

The staggering view of the chateau – at a distance or reflected in the water – will surely excite even the lethargic and the lazy to try walking in this exceptional environment.  This is one of our favorite places to do a leisurely stroll on a Sunday afternoon and with exhibitions held inside the chateau, the  experience becomes doubly enjoyable!  Really glad that our Mathematician “nephew” liked it.

As always, I am always behind to do the shots!

This is the Glaciere .. or the ice building where, in the early days, winter snow was stored at low temperature to last till the summer days where it was used to prepare iced dessert or cold drinks. (1740)

 

A quick visit at the Chateau’s world war 1 exposition. The area of the Essone where the Domaine de Chamarande is located was an active military zone used for training soldiers and storing armaments and war equipment.

Design notebook of Soldier Lucien Duclair, Liason Officer, 1915

The grenade thrower, designed by Bernard Naudin

A soldier’s sewing kit

Domaine de Chamarande
38 rue due Commandant Arnoux, 91730, Chamarande, France
Free entrance

Road Trip

It all started when,  in the midst of scouring the exhibits of  the Mois de la Photo in Paris a few years ago, I came upon this discreet spot in the Chatelet area presenting the theme:  Road Trip. 

Mois de la Photo (Month of Photography) is a month-long photography festival held each month of November in France but more concentrated in Paris where  grand halls, galleries, private studios or even unexpected spaces  hold  exhibitions featuring the works of legends, as well as accomplished and emerging photographers.  In the booklet given free by the Paris tourist office  where names of participants are listed, I specifically ticked an address which, to my apprehensive surprise,  is located above a shop where I had to clamber up some dark staircase to reach a modest-size room.  Books and magazines were strewn in disordered fashion and the sight of wornout furniture, mixed and matched, creates the impression that this is an overworked studio of a zealous artist.  Framed photos of the author’s road trip experiences hang neatly against the walls,  the room deliberately made darker with dim lights probably  to compliment the sombre nature of the images on display:  a rainy day, night scene, bird pooing on the windshield…they were all depicted in a sombre manner.  But even so,  that particular moment instilled a desire in me that one day, I shall put up my own photo exhibit about the same subject – Road Trip.

Ah, road trips!  I have been to countless of them with H from the moment we started our travelling lifestyle.  We have traversed  a large portion of the European continent, by car, by van, by train, by ferry, by campervan, by towing a caravan or a boat.  From the scenic to the dramatic, from the gloomy to the dreary, in all kinds of weather conditions and road situations, you name it, we’ve done it.  Through all these, I have always kept a camera handy, ready to click the shutter for any unexpected sight that may arise.

This post is just the beginning.  A project under construction.  I have yet to sift through several years of photoarchive files and definitely, there are a lot more to be added here.  And when it is over and completed, I shall start scouring for that unexpected space to exhibit my photos.   In some garden courtyard, perhaps, or at the back of a factory.  I read that cafés, bars or restaurants are an absolute no-no as venues.  Why not in a closed- down church.  I’ve been to some exhibitions held in these places.  Yeah, a dream that will one day come true.

Enjoy browsing!

 We were towing the boat, Togouabi,  towards Venice where
we we were about to take the 24-hour ferry ride to Corfu (Greece), it’s future home.  2009

Inside the boat, behind the wheel, we have just arrived in Dover, England and were waiting for the ferry door to open  when I noticed this car with this Canadian plate number.   What a long journey it must have taken for the driver to get this far! 2010.

We were in British territory, the land of coloured water (at least that’s how we label their “always-franchised” coffee) so we had to bring our own coffeemaker and camping cooker for our all-time caffeine fix.

I love photographing the geometrical patterns of bridges especially while driving through them.

Villefranche sur Mer, France

A mobile church?

The beautiful sunset of Italy. 2011

Driving through the Romantic Road of Piemont, Italy.

It started as a beautiful day for driving, then snowflakes started falling and before we knew it, the road became practically impassable due to the thick snow building up on the road.  We eventually made it home.  Southwest Hungary. 2012

A very misty day along Nagykanizsa road, Hungary. 2012

Every Springtime when the rain falls continuously in the Roya Valley at the foot of the French Alps, erosion happens and large pieces of rocks toppling down is a natural occurrence such as this one blocking the road that time.  Few days later, we saw men using special machines to break  the rock into smaller pieces for easier lifting and transporting away.

Still waiting for the firemen.  South of France

Sunday Nature Walk

Sun, blue sky, the desperate yearning for a promenade, the desire to be instantly relieved  from cabin fever and the need to shop for food in the market, you combine all these factors and the first things that come to mind are:  put on a good pair of walking shoes, get the shopping bag,  search for the key and drive the van to somewhere green, pleasant and not far from a bustling market

Parc of Les Ulis

Glad that the parc of Les Ulis is just 14 minute drive from where we live in the Essone.  It’s been very cold, windy and wet the past few days and what sweet comfort  to go out in the open, bask in the sunshine and flex every single muscle of our body.  Well, I must include the muscles on my right index finger that clicks the shutter!  A photographer can never run short of inspiration here.  For even in these cold winter days, despite the absence of leaves and flowers,  this scenery just outside of Paris is a sight to behold.   It is just as beautiful in the Spring, Summer or Autumn when seasonal flowers bloom and the locals are out and about.

And when there is beauty in your surroundings, it brings forth the inspiration to get your creative juices out, and if you are a poet, it’s like weaving the right words  to create heart-rending messages that can even make you cry.

Here are some:

 “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
… John Muir

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.”…..William Blake, 1799, The Letters

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”
….. Hal Borland, Countryman: A Summer of Belief

“A tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees.” …. Anton Chekhov

 Janvry
Time to go home, but insatiable me had to ask for more. Why not drive through a smaller village and allow ourselves to be surprised even more?

And we have not driven that far when we saw these adorable Highland cattle of Janvry, another village of the Essone.  (Actually, we have been here before but too long ago to even remember..)

 

 

Scottish Highland cattle that have been raised in French soil, hence, the attachment to day-old baguette courtesy of this man (only his hand is visible) who probably owns a boulangerie (bakery) and brought with him a big bag full of  leftovers.

 Finally driving home and yet, we saw more animal scenes on the way.

Note:  We did find  the market in Les Ulis, it sells everything  from fish and fresh veggies to great tasting baguette topped with poppy seeds!  Mission happily accomplished!

Paris Magnum © Hotel de Ville

 

This is what I adore about Paris!  I could virtually dedicate a day just visiting exhibitions and they come so aplenty!  Why not?  It’s only a 40-minute train journey  from our suburban home  so I might as well plan my trip.   The good thing about Parisian exhibitions is, a lot of them are free so it’s not really a bank-breaking leisure activity.  So after seeing the Klimt exhibit  (which I don’t mind shelling out 16.50euros because the works on display were carefully transported here from Vienna), I went to see the free-for-all  “Paris Magnum”  expo at the Hotel de Ville.   “Magnum Photos” is undeniably a legend and a visit to one of its exhibitions is the ultimate dream of serious photographers, moreso for  aspiring  street photographers like yours truly!

A total of 130  iconic images of photojournalism pioneers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa,  Marc Riboud, Raymond Depardon, Martin Parr, Elliott Erwitt, among others, are displayed in one room of the Paris City Hall depicting the capital’s metamorphosis from the late 1930s up to the present:  the trade union strikes,  the liberation of Paris, the student protests, the war in Algeria, the 1968 student protests, the arrival of the mini-skirt, the creation of HLM’s (socialized housing), politics, celebrities and the day-to-day scenes of Parisian life.

Photography is not allowed so all these photos you are seeing, except the first one above, were gathered from the net so as  to give you a flavor of what they are like.  And after browsing on them, you be the judge why Street Photography is so special.  We, photographers, are historians in the making.  What we take now becomes a historical evidence for future generation to discover.

“There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”- Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

Spectators at Longchamp Racecourse, 1952 © Robert Capa

1953 © Marc Riboud

Paris, 1949 © Elliott Erwitt
Here are the beginnings of the photographic work of Elliott Erwitt: a mix of spontaneity, mockery and humor.

View of  Notre-Dame, 1953 © Henri Cartier-Bresson

In front of the Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysees, 1970 © Elliott Erwitt

-French Teen on a boat along the Seine, 1988 © David Alan Harvey

Zazou, the painter of the Eiffel tower, 1953 – © Marc Riboud

Paris, 1967 © Raymond Depardon

Place de l’Europe. Gare Saint Lazare, 1932 © Henri Cartier-Bresson

Town of Saint-Ouen, 1936 © David Seymour

© Henri Cartier-Bresson

Picasso in his Parisian workshop,  1944.© Robert Capa

© Martin Parr

Rue de Vaugirard, 1968 © Henri Cartier-Bresson

Liberation of Paris,  1944 © Robert Capa

1996 © Gueorgui Pinkhassov

“Paris Magnum” at Hotel de Ville
From  12 Dec to 28 March, 2015

Gustav Klimt at The Pinacotheque, Paris

As I said earlier, I have always aspired to see a Klimt exhibition.  It’s  a dream that I thought will remain just that – a dream.

I’d almost done it in Vienna, Venice and few forgot-the-name cities but it would always fall through as the opportunity, simply, is not there.   So how half-ecstatic, half-resigned I was when we arrived in Paris earlier this month and there I saw the yellow banner on the Metro, announcing the Klimt exhibition at The Pinacotheque to start on 12th February.  Half-ecstatic because it is actually going to happen, half-resigned because I probably won’t be here to see it.  But pure luck was about to be on my side – H decided that we have to stay in Paris for a bit longer and that means, I will be here when it opens!

(Fast Forward)

 

So I’m here to talk about it and I’m still over the moon!  I bought my  ticket (16.50euros) online as I expected the queue to be kilometric, indeed it was and I was lucky not to have to stand up there for hours, but I felt a bit ripped off as the cost of the ticket indicated on the door is only 14euros!  Oh well, at least I did not freeze waiting in line like the others , I actually went straight in like a VIP.

Gustav Klimt (1862 – 1918) was one of the most famous painters of Austria who also co-founded the Secession Movement (Art Nouveau style) in Vienna.    The exhibition entitled “In the Time of Klimt, The Vienna Secession” demonstrates the  development of the  Viennese Secession in the 19th century by displaying selected works of the artist (and some others).  Some of these works are less known to the world and I’m glad I saw them in their original state.

 


Gustav Klimt, Female portrait, c. 1804, oil on canvas, (from the Belvedere collection, Vienna)

 

Ernst Klimt (Gustav’s brother), Portrait of a baby on a sofa wearing a lace cap, 1885, oil on canvas, private collection

Ernst Klimt – Francesca da Rimini and Paolo. 1890.  Oil on canvas.   Belvedere, Vienna

 

Gustav Klimt, Study of a female head on a red background, 1897-1898, oil on canvas, Klimt Foundation, Vienna.

 Klimt has focused all his attention on the female figure, depicting them partly as sexual objects and  partly as supreme beings

Gustav Klimt, Woman on the chimney, 1897-1898, oil on canvas, 41 x 66 cm. Belvedere, Vienna.

 

Gustav Klimt, Portrait of a young girl, c. 1898, oil on cardboard, 38 x 34 cm. Private collection, Belvedere, Vienna

 

Gustav Klimt, standing female nude with a raised arm (Niké), about 1898

Gustav Klimt, Judith, 1901, oil on canvas, 84 x 42 cm, Belvedere, Vienna

Gospel of Matthew 14:6-11
But on Herod’s birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them: and pleased Herod. Whereupon he promised with an oath, to give her whatsoever she would ask of him. But she being instructed before by her mother, said: Give me here in a dish the head of John the Baptist. And the king was struck sad: yet because of his oath, and for them that sat with him at table, he commanded it to be given. And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.
And his head was brought in a dish: and it was given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body, and buried it, and came and told Jesus.

Klimt painted the biblical character of Judith holding the severed head of Holofernes.  She is depicted here as a femme fatale. She looks down on the viewer, her mouth voluptuously open and with her right hand she strokes the hair of Holofernes.

This is the painting that left me totally spellbound!  Imagine getting  the chance to look up close at one of the most famous paintings in the planet.  It’s just a shame that photography is not allowed, but having said that, I stared at it like there’s no tomorrow, taking note at every single detail of the painting, the gilded frame, the engravings on it where etched the words “Judith” and “Holofernes”.

Gustav Klimt – Feu follet, 1903. Oil on canvas,  52 x 60 cm

– ° – ° – ° – ° – ° – °- ° – ° –

In 1902, Klimt created one of his most famous works, the Beethoven Frieze, for an exhibition of the Secession movement. The entire show was an homage to Ludwig van Beethoven.   Klimt’s monumental frieze greeted visitors in the entrance hall. Thirty-four meters wide and two meters high is this opulent, ornamental “symphony”; in which Klimt sought to immortalize Beethoven’s “Ninth” and its interpretation by Richard Wagner.   (wien.info)

 Gustav Klimt, Reconstruction of the Beethoven Frieze, 1985 Mixed media on plaster stubble, 216 x 3438 cm. Belvedere, Vienna

 

 

 

 

 

This copy of the “Beethoven Frieze” was absolutely amazing!  Staring at the work reproduced on the walls of the Pinacotheque put me on the same state as if I was listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  Incredible.

My only disappointment is that, “The Kiss” is not there, unfair! Oh well, the next time I go to Vienna, I must go and see it.  At least,  I bought a big poster of it  that time and I am going to frame it – in wood painted in gold – and display it in my sitting room!

“Whoever wants to know something about me – as an artist which alone is significant – they should look attentively at my pictures and there seek to recognize what I am and what I want.” – Gustav Klimt