On an intense 2 day run around Paris, my brain is saturated with the stuff of creative dreaming. How did Monet come to paint the series of Water Lilies? How did Le Corbusier and his cousin Jeanneret come up with the innovatively planned Maison La Roche when nothing of it's kind had ever been done before?
The Musée de l'Orangerie houses the famous Water Lilies (Nymphéas) series by Claude Monet. Although I have seen these works many a time in publication, I had never expected them to be so large and expansive. You could actually walk along the works - hung in a beautifully daylit oval room - and experience the landscape that Monet really only dapples the impression of. Although the gesture involved in painting these scenes is interesting in itself, Monet proves one of the most powerful of colorists in the way that nothing really looks like it is supposed to, nor sometimes the colour it is in real life, but when seen through squinted eyes (or in my case, removing my glasses) the paintings transform into a hazy but definite portrayal of the idyllic water lily ponds full of depth and personality.
The museum itself, known for it's focus on Impressionism, used to be a glasshouse built especially for growing oranges - yet another whim of one of France's kings. Models show how over time, this 'Orangerie' has changed and developed to it's current form, so elegantly displaying Monet's prize work as well as the likes of Picasso and Cezanne.
Another highlight of my Paris trip was going out of my way to the Le Corbusier Foundation, housed in the Maison La Roche, a wonderful double residential unit + gallery on a tiny site. Multi-storied in a fragmented way with dramatic ramps and the horizontal windows trademarked by the Modernist Architecture movement, one can really see how it all came together and see how this sometimes dated looking period of architecture was a real milestone for our contemporary practice today. Architecture students were all over the place, drawing the rooms, the facade and pilotis, soaking in the inspiration which made Le Corbusier an architect idol of sorts. And I just found out that the day I went was the day of Le Corbusier's birth! Fitting indeed.