There was a small crowd at the Marmottan as we waited for the doors to open. We were going to the Berthe Morisot show with another painter, before making our foray into the Bois de Boulogne to paint. I hadn’t really spent much time with Morisot’s work before this, and the depth of her production was amazing. She was the wife of Manet’s brother, and a mother, and in an age where women didn’t paint, somehow found time to paint not only rich portraits, but many beautiful landscapes. In many of the painting of her daughter, I could see how much Morisot loved her.
The Marmottan, if you haven’t been there, is the “Monet” museum. Lots of smaller (48 x 54” or thereabouts) waterlilies hang, and other impressions of Giverney. In fact, the painting that gave “Impressionism” its title hangs at the Marmottan.
There is also a fabulous collection of manuscript illuminations in the museum. We spent a bit of time examining these, as well as several walls of small portraits (12 x 12 inches) from the late 1700s. I figure these were the last vestiges of some of the French aristocracy, as depicted by Bouilly, from just before the Revolution.
We’ve have a week of back-to-back workshops. On Tuesday we went to Giverney with three painters. Even though we’ve been there before there are moments I sit in Monet’s gardens and get goosebumps. I was nearly overcome with emotion on Tuesday as I was walking by the lily pond, checking on a watercolorist, and another painter. I can almost feel Monet walking among us, or at least on the collective minds of we five painters.
We had only one painter with us at Auvers-sur-Oise on Wednesday. We picked her up on Montmartre, and followed the route by the flea markets at Clignancourt out to the country. It was a shorter foray than Giverney, only about 40 minutes. We went to the graves of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo – I feel different about him now that it is known he did not commit suicide, but was killed accidentally by a local boy. He had a great respect for life and it always set oddly with me that he would have ended it all during this, the most productive time in his career. This new knowledge lends a more positive feeling to the trip, and I saw the church, the fields, the river Oise with new eyes.
We painted a couple of pictures that day – and finished up with a visit to the home of Dr. Gachet, the building now a museum. Gachet was a doctor caring for Vincent in Auvers-sur-Oise. Gachet gave up his regular practice, grew a homeopathic garden on the small estate willed him by his parents. He was a printmaker, and opened his home to other artists as well as Van Gogh, including Pissarro, Renoir , Manet and Cezanne.
We got home to find a lodger in our flat : a writer friend from Seattle has found his way back to Paris. I slept happily that night, with the sense that , like doctor Gachet, we were encouraging artists on their artistic course.