Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Chaim Soutine Les Maisons 1921Chaim Soutine was yet another brilliant but tragically short lived painter, dying at the age of 50 in 1943.  He was a Russian Jew who studied art as a youth in his native Belarus then emigrated to Paris in 1913.  There, among the many diverse artistic influences, his distinct expressionistic style found its voice and over the next two decades he produced a powerful body of work.  However, he wasn’t hailed as the great painter he truly was until the days just before the start of World War II.

As a Jew in German occupied France, he was forced to be always on the move from safe haven to the next in order to avoid the Gestapo. He sometimes found himself sleeping outside in the forests.  In 1943, he suffered a perforated stomach ulcer and died during emergency surgery.

He is best known for his paintings of the carcasses of meat and his still lives, all painted in his wild, heavily impasto manner.  However, for me, it is his landscapes that are the real treasures.  They have a tremendous amount of movement through them that forms a rhythm that, along with the color and contrasts of the surface, make them sing for me.  I just see them as being very powerful pieces.

Take a look for yourself at some of my favorite Soutine landscapes.

Chaim Soutine Landscape with Red Donkey Chaim Soutine Landscape at Cagnes Chaim Soutine Houses of Cagne Chaim Soutine Landscape with Cypress Chaim Soutine The Old Mill

Read Full Post »

Paris - Pont des Arts 1953 Henri Cartier BressonI just don’t know.

I am still trying to make sense of the attacks in Paris, trying to understand the logic of terrorism and how people are convinced to follow any quasi-religious group that advances its beliefs through such violence.  It all defies logic and that is a terrifying thing because how can you fight against, let alone negotiate with, such an illogical entity?

What is lacking that would drive people to such acts?  What is missing that drives young people to join these groups in order to give their lives to hurt and kill others? Is it real religious conviction or is it just a matter of them feeling a sense of purpose that they either can’t find or refuse to feel in the world in which they were raised?

I just don’t know.  But I  do fear that this marks a tipping point, that we are in for a long and even uglier struggle, if you can imagine that,  going forward.  It may be that we are already in the beginning days of a type of World War III as the Pope has said recently.  I hope not but when you are dealing with the illogical there’s no telling where this goes.

But my heart bleeds for the people of France.  Part of me wants to jump on a plane to Paris just as a sort of ‘screw you’ to those who wish that country harm, just to let them know that their terror based on a warped and hateful religious vision will not stand up to people who try to live by the motto, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

Liberty. Equality. Fraternity.  These are the uniting qualities of humanity, not just of France, and will not be taken away through a campaign based on fear and hatred.  These are words that we need now more than in any time in the recent past.

Okay, let’s take deep breath.  Today’s Sunday music is a fitting tribute written by the great American songwriter, Cole Porter.  Although there are many, many great versions out there, I chose this one from jazz great Etta Jones–  not to be confused with Etta James of “At Last” fame.  Have a great day and keep the people of France in your thoughts. Here’s  I Love Paris.









Read Full Post »

PrintI’ve written here in the past about the Tour de France, the epic bicycle race that that criss-crosses France for three weeks each July.  About 2100 miles in 21 days that climbs through the heights of the Pyrenees and Alps.  It is an incredible test of strength, endurance and nerve putting perhaps the greatest endurance athletes on the planet on the edge of their physical capacities.

For me, this event is like a yearly Olympics or a 21 game World Series, each day bringing something new to marvel at– incredible scenery, awe-inspiring performances and sometimes horrifying crashes.

And this morning, as the race winds down to tomorrow’s finish on the Champs de Elysee in Paris, is one of the most fabled routes in the Tour– the climb up Alpe d’Huez.  Over 68 miles filled with ridiculous grades, hairpin turns and fierce competition.  Just great sport.

Below is a profile of today’s route and below that a little riding music from Queen.  Got to run– the race is on!

Alpe d'Huez Route 2015


Read Full Post »


RippleI wrote the essay below earlier this morning and almost deleted it.  But a while later, I decided that by doing this, by simply not commenting, I would be acting in the exact manner that I was advising against in those paragraphs.  The world is changing, sometimes in awful ways, and it is our duty to speak up and define the world in which we want to live.  So, as an act of responsibility to myself, I decided to hit the button to publish it.

Here it is:

The idea of having a purpose in life has been on my mind a lot lately.  Of course, this has been spurred on by the images of the many disaffected youths who have joined radical religious groups around the world, resulting in terrible acts of violence in the name of a distorted version of god’s law, like those we experienced this past week in France.

It seems  that so many of these youths have never sensed a forward direction in their lives or felt a sense of hope for their future.  They do not feel to be a part of their immediate world and have lost all trust in their own ability to create a life of purpose for themselves and, as a result, they allow others to step in and define their purpose and future, however destructive and hate-filled it might be.

Now, that’s incredibly broad and simplistic, I know.  But I can tell you from personal experience that having no sense of being, no sense of purpose in your existence, leaves you with a bitter anger on a road leading to destructive behavior, for your self and others.

So, if this is the case for many, what is the answer?  How do you give a sense of purpose to these kids without hope?  How do you give them a sense of worth and belonging?

I don’t know what the answer might be– there are so many of these kids in so many difficult environments that it can seem daunting.  I do know what will not work– pretending that it is not our problem and that it will somehow resolve of it’s own accord.  Do that and you will wake up some day in the near future wondering why these events that once only happened in places like Paris, Syria and Nigeria are taking place in cities near you.  With the inequality and rising rates of poverty in this country, we are sowing the seeds of hopelessness that could someday grow into the same scenarios we are seeing abroad.

So, what do we do?  Whatever you can do to make your own little isolated corner of the world a better place.  Be generous in spirit and inclusive in nature.  It may only seem like a pebble being thrown into a huge lake but the ripples of many splashes eventually creates a wave that might sweep across the entire lake.

I know that sounds almost moronically simple.  But sometimes simple is all we have.  We can’t all just around wait for someone to throw a big stone into that lake.  Throw your pebble.

Maybe that is your purpose.

Read Full Post »

Ostrich-man-head-in-sandI’ve been sitting for over an hour or more at the computer, writing a whole thing this morning about the events in Paris as well as those horrific things taking place in Nigeria at the hand of the Boko Haram that make the Charlie Hebdo slayings pale by comparison.  But I decided against posting it, instead opting for for this:

We live in a dangerous time and we cannot live with our heads in the sand.

History has shown us that we must live with vigilance and resolve against those who will try to dictate how we must live.  It might seem hyperbolic and far removed but the longer we ignore it and pretend that it will not affect us, the closer it comes to realization.

For my music on this Sunday morning, I have chosen a scene from the movie Casablanca that is fittingly symbolic for what I have said above.  In this scene, the occupying German entourage at Rick’s Cafe are singing the German anthem boisterously.  The French resistance fighter Victor Laszlo furiously rushes to the house band to have them play the French anthem La Marseillaise in response.  The club’s patrons respond with a unity that drowns out the German voices.

There are perhaps a million folks marching in the streets of Paris today in solidarity against the actions of the terrorists, their voices raised in the hope of drowning out the noise of the terrorists who threaten them.  They have been awakened and are finding their resolve.

They have pulled their heads from the sand.

Take note and try to have a great Sunday.





Read Full Post »

Nadar_autoportrait_tournantWhile following the events of last week , both in Boston and in Texas, it seemed as though the media was constantly mentioning how many terrible things had happened during this week in the past.  The Oklahoma City bombing and the end of the siege at  the Waco compound of the Branch Davidians, to name a couple.  It sent me to  the computer to search for something more positive to mark this week of the year.  I came up with the first exhibition of the Impressionists in  1874.  It took place at the Paris studio of a photographer called  Nadar.  The story of this  photographer looked even more interesting  than the original story  of the Impressionists and set me off on a tangent.

Nadar Self Portrait 1909The Frenchman Nadar, who lived from 1820 -1910 and whose real name is Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, was a larger than life character who acted as a caricaturist, photographer, journalist and a pioneering balloonist.  That’s him above in a revolving self portrait that he did in 1865.  Of course, the automated spinning was a bit after his time but I’m not sure he didn’t see it coming.  He was always pushing for the advancement of  heavier-than-air flight, in the form of balloons at the time, and was a friend and associate of Jules Verne, who based his book Five Weeks in a Balloon as well as a character in his book  From the Earth to the Moon on Nadar.

Nadar Le Geant Gondola after flight and wreckHe was well known for his aerial photos of Paris taken from a tethered balloon.  In fact, he was the first person to take an aerial photo in 1858 although none of these survived until today.  The aerial shot below of Paris  is from 1867.  In 1863, he built a huge gas balloon, Le Geant (the giant),  the largest to date.  It had a huge two story gondola and had room for thirteen passengers as well as a lavatory and other amenities such as a darkroom and a lithograph press on which short reports would be printed and flung from the balloon.  After a failed first attempt, a flight that lasted more than 17 hours and covered 400 miles was made but unfortunately there was a mishap on landing.  The winds were high and the gondola was dragged along the ground for several miles, injuring  all aboard, some seriously.  But it never deterred the forward looking Nadar, who sent the balloon to England to be displayed at the Crystal Palace in hopes of raising funds for an future attempts.

Nadar Aerial View of Paris 1867

The ballooning aside, his portraits of the leading names of the time are really wonderful.  Artists such as Monet, Corot and Delacroix were all subjects as were many others from all other fields– the actress Sarah Bernhardt; the composers Rossini, Chopin and Liszt; writers Baudelaire and George Sand.  Perhaps most striking of his portraits is a shot of Victor Hugo as he lay dead in his bed,shown here at the bottom of this post.

It all amounts to a pretty big life, one that we know little of today except as a footnote to other events.  I’m glad I followed that tangent…

Nadar Death Portrait of Victor Hugo

Read Full Post »

Seems Like a New SunThis piece, Seems Like a New Sun, is part of the show currently hanging at the Haen Gallery in Asheville, NC.  It’s a cityscape, a genre I enjoy mainly because of the abstract quality of shape and color that is formed by building up the structures.

At the opening for the show, someone asked if this painting was of a necropolis, a city of the dead or cemetery.  They cited the lack of windows and doors and said that it reminded them of those in Paris and New Orleans, where many of the graves are housed above-ground in beautiful small mausoleums.  This kind of took me  back a little because the idea had never entered my mind at any point in the creation of this piece but when I looked again it made perfect sense, in more than the obvious way.

I have always been attracted to cemeteries of all sorts and when we travel (a rarity these days) Cheri and I generally find a cemetery and walk around it, admiring the stones and mausoleums.  I read the names and epitaphs, trying to discern what sort of life they indicate.  Some find this morbid but I find it fascinating and very peaceful and in some ways, invigorating and reinforcing of life.  There is a lot to be said in the way a culture treats its dead.

We have a beautiful cemetery in our home area, Woodlawn Cemetery, that was created in the heyday of “burial parks” in the mid-19th century.  It has a rolling landscape with beautiful old growth trees and meandering roads. Very nice.  It’s home now to Mark Twain, Hal Roach, Ernie Davis and others.  Adjoining it is a national cemetery where there are the remains of a number of Confederate soldiers from the Civil War who perished in the notorious prisoner of war camp at Elmira.  There is history everywhere if we only look.

This is Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Evita Peron is its most famous resident.  Quite a striking sight amid the sprawl of the living city.  Maybe there is some validity in the viewer’s question…Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: