Eugene Boudin at MuMa

Andre Malraux Museum of Modern Art

Andre Malraux Museum of Modern Art

If you’ve never heard of Eugene Boudin (1824-1898), you’re forgiven. Even Boudin, at the end of his life, recognized rather poignantly that he was destined to be a footnote in the history of modern art.

Yet Boudin does not deserve to be forgotten. Not only was he a source of influence and inspiration for the Impressionists, many of whom he knew and encouraged, but he was a delightful artist in his own right.

Boudin was born in Honfleur, France, and grew up in nearby Le Havre. Although he traveled to paint in Paris and Italy during his career, he returned to the area of his birth frequently; the maritime scenes of Normandy were a lifelong inspiration.

Now the Andre Malraux Museum of Modern Art (MuMa) in Le Havre has mounted the first retrospective of Boudin’s works since 1906 and by far the largest, comprising as it does well over 300 works.

The curators have wisely arranged the exhibition chronologically, which allows them to illustrate their notion of Boudin as a “Craftsman of Light.” (The French title is L’Atelier de la Lumiere.)

By Eugene Bodin (Copyright, musee d'art moderne Andre Malraux.)

By Eugene Bodin (Copyright, musee d’art moderne Andre Malraux.)

A well-conceived guide to the exhibition (available in English as well as French) allows the visitor to follow his development. He began as a largely self-taught artist, but attracted the interest of established painters who encouraged him. The town of Le Havre gave him a scholarship to learn his craft by copying Old Masters in the Louvre; as part of his tuition he had to send the city one completed copy a year.

When he married, he spent time with his in-laws in Finnesterre in Brittany where he was fascinated by the austere landscape and sombre Breton interiors. There he produced a series of dark and evocative canvases.

But his first love was the seashore of his native Normandy, whose beaches, harbors, and sailing vessels provided a lifetime of subjects and inspiration. And of course light was a never-ending source of fascination for Boudin. Inspired by the Barbizon School he developed a penchant for painting outdoors, en plein aire in the French phrase, and became one of the pioneers of the method.

Later in his career he created study after study, quick, impressionistic sketches in paint, often used by artists as a sort of rough draft for finished works to be completed later in the studio. But Boudin seldom took the subsequent steps, a tendency for which he expressed some regret as artists were “supposed” to produce finished works.

And yet, by working his way, he anticipated the more informal “impressionistic” style that became Impressionism. His studies of clouds in particular are in essence proto-abstracts and quite lovely.

Boudin exhibit at Andre Malraux Museum of Modern Art

Boudin exhibit at Andre Malraux Museum of Modern Art

It may not be worth taking a detour to catch this exhibition unless you have a special interest in this little corner of the history of modern art, but if your travels take you to Le Havre it would be a shame to miss it. L’Atelier de La Lumiere offers a rare chance to survey an artist’s entire career (and Boudin was nothing if not prolific) and gain a deeper understanding of the wellsprings of one of the major artistic movements of the late nineteenth century.

boudin-poster copyL’Atelier de La Lumiere runs through September 26, 2016.
Andre Malraux Museum of Modern Art
Musee d’Art Moderne André Malraux (MuMa)
Boulevard Clemenceau (on the seafront)
Le Havre

 

 

 

New York: The 9/11 Memorial Museum

9/11 Museum in New York City

The New York City skyline, with One World Trade Center standing tallest, seen from a ferry on the Hudson River.

NEW YORK — Last year, at my sister’s request, we visited the World Trade Center site, aka Ground Zero, to see the memorial reflecting pools and other features, but this year, with the 9/11 Museum now open, she wanted to return to see the new facility.

So, we did just that.

The museum’s entry is via an elegant multifaceted glass pavilion, which admits lots of light.

IT9_11Museum10a

The elegant glass pavilion that gives entry to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, seen on a glorious September day.

The museum itself is underground, reaching down about 70 feet to bedrock and extending out under the two reflecting pools that sit atop the footprints of the Twin Towers.

The museum had to go below ground because it is obliged by law to preserve the last remnants of the original World Trade Center, which are at bedrock level, and to give the public “meaningful” access to them.

9/11 Museum in New York City

Foundation Hall, at bedrock level in the 9/11 Museum. The slurry wall, which survived the 9/11 destruction, is seen, along with the last steel beam to be removed from Ground Zero. Its removal marked the end of a nine-month recovery effort.

As a result, visitors see surviving parts of Twin Tower foundations and a retaining wall, called the slurry wall, built to keep the Hudson River from flooding the area. The slurry wall held after 9/11 and saved the city much additional destruction.

It is, of course, a sobering experience to see the 9/11 Museum. My sister and I visited on a gorgeous sunny September day, a day just like Sept. 11, 2001. Even the sun seems somber in such circumstances.

The first things any visitor sees on entry are two 70-foot-tall steel pieces recovered from the Twin Towers and now rising in the pavilion’s atrium. Called tridents because each has three prongs, they were two of many such pieces that were part of the exterior design of the towers.

9/11 Museum in New York City

Tridents, two steel pieces salvaged from the Twin Towers, seen in the glass pavilion that gives access to the 9/11 Museum’s underground exhibits and artifacts.

The tridents together look like an elegant piece of modern art — if you don’t focus on their provenance. Or, they can be seen as hands reaching skyward in supplication.

It’s important to know that the facility’s core exhibition occupies much of the museum’s bottom level. It is called the “September 11, 2001, Historical Exhibition.” We nearly missed it.

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Frederic Marès Museum, Barcelona

Here is the fourth in a series of articles by Intrepid Traveler publisher Kelly Monaghan as he travels through Spain.

Entrance to the Frederic Marès Museum. (Photos by Kelly Monaghan)

Frederic Marès (1893 – 1991) was a sculptor by profession and his commissions for religious and monumental statuary must have paid off handsomely to judge by the mind-boggling collection of high art and low-brow tchotchkes he amassed during his long life. Biographical information on this largely forgotten artist is hard to come by, but I suspect he came from money; either that, or great art and collectible ephemera used to go for a fraction of what it now commands. But let us not be crass. [Read more...]

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Istanbul: Entering a spectacular metropolis by sea

The Blue Mosque as seen by passengers on Louis Cruises’ Louis Cristal as the ship came into port. All six minarets are visible.

 

ISTANBUL, Turkey — I have been in Istanbul several times, but this spring, for the first time, I arrived on a cruise ship, Louis Cruises’ Louis Cristal.

Istanbul’s most famous mosque, the Blue Mosque.

Turkey’s largest metropolis, but not its capital, Istanbul is fascinating. First known widely as Constantinople, it was the capital of the eastern Roman Empire and then the Byzantine Empire. Later, the Ottoman Turks — who renamed it — made it their capital, too.

It was important for its location where Europe meets Asia and where the Aegean (via the inland Sea of Marmara and the Bosporus strait) meets the Black Sea.

A sometimes wild, and certainly varied, history has left the city with a few Roman ruins, the remains of impressive walls, Christian churches with beautiful mosaics, 575 Ottoman-era mosques and a few palaces.

And, as is often true of good strategic locations, Istanbul’s setting is spectacular.

Entry into Istanbul by ship is all about that setting. Sailing into port, passengers had nice views of the Blue Mosque, the best known of the hundreds; Topkapi Palace, the hilltop home for sultans and their harems, and Hagia Sophia, once the world’s largest church.

The dock was on the European side of Istanbul, the world’s only city located on two continents. The historic sites and the business center are on the city’s older and larger European side.

The Asian side, accessible by bridge or ferry across the Bosporus, is the “sleeping side,” our guide said.

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Athens: 19 Hours in the Greek Capital

The tallest hill in Athens, spelled Lykavittos or Lycabettus.

ATHENS, Greece — I spent about 19 hours in Athens this spring, not long, to be sure, but worth the layover just the same.

I traveled from New York on Air France, flying for the first time on the world’s largest passenger airliner, the A380, on the New York-Paris portion of the trip.

The statistics are impressive. The plane is 239 feet, 6 inches long, 79 feet, 1 inch tall and has a wingspan of 261 feet, 10 inches. It carries a whopping 81,890 gallons of fuel.

Built to accommodate passengers on two decks, it can be configured with a three-class layout accommodating 555 passengers. In an all-economy configuration, it could take 840 passengers.

When boarding, I could see the staircase to the seats on the upper level, but once in my place on the first level, the travel experience was much like being in any other widebody aircraft.

One unique feature, however, was the surprisingly nice bathroom. It was small, but seemed like a tiny version of a sleek hotel bathroom.

Acropolis Museum

At the dramatic entrance to Athens’ new Acropolis Museum, visitors walk on the glass that protects and reveals an archaeological dig below their feet.

In Athens, I joined a number of other travel press, and we made the most of a short visit with the help of a very effective tour guide, Natasha Koliakou. It was already after 2 p.m. when we launched our visit.

We headed straight to one of the newest attractions in town, the Acropolis Museum (which replaced an older Acropolis Museum), opened in 2009 and situated below the Acropolis itself.

The museum is fantastic, a thoughtfully designed modern four-story building that houses the treasures collected from the top of the Acropolis.

We entered by walking across very thick glass, which protects an archaeological dig visible below. Also, one section of the dig is walled but open to the sky for better viewing.

Some of the dig is visible under glass sections of the floor inside the museum, too. At one point, curators showed us a traditional offering for the gods through a glass section of the floor. And, in places, lower museum levels could be seen because of see-through floors higher up.

Displays include the originals of five Caryatids, referring to the pillars in the shape of women that were created for the Erechtheion temple.

Because another Caryatid resides in the British Museum, designers of the Athens facility created an empty position in the Caryatid display and await the hoped-for return of the sixth figure.

(Up on the Acropolis, the porch roof on the Erechtheion is still supported by pillars; they are exact replicas of the Caryatids.)

The gallery on the museum’s top floor displays at full length the Parthenon Frieze, a bas-relief in marble of a huge procession. The blocks are about three feet high, but once extended to 525 feet end to end. About 80 percent of that survives. However, more than half the blocks in the Acropolis Museum display are copies because large parts of this

The cafe on the third-floor terrace of the Acropolis Museum.

Taken together, however, the original marble sculptures plus the replicas form a mind-boggling display.

Before departure, we stopped at the outdoor cafe on the third floor for new views of the Parthenon — which was only about 1,000 feet away — and at the city’s tallest hill, Lykavittos (or Lycabettus, depending on the source).

Natasha told us that while Lykavittos is the tallest of the hills, the ancients preferred the second highest, called Acropolis which means top and city, because it had a natural plateau and a source of water at its foot.

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Seattle’s Experience Music Project: For Rock Music Lovers

EMP, sitting at the base of Seattle's Space Needle, was designed by Frank Gehry.

(SEATTLE, WA) The Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum or, as it is now commonly known, EMP sits below Seattle’s famed Space Needle like a recently landed alien starship. The brainchild of Microsoft gazillionaire Paul Allen, it focuses on the history of rock music. Although the Science Fiction Museum officially closed in 2011, current exhibits celebrating Battlestar Gallactica and Avatar carry on the tradition. [Read more...]