Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Madame Grès and Antoine Bourdelle, a Conversation Between Sculptors

Back in Paris after a lovely stay in Metz, I'm trying to organize my photos -- it's rather overwhelming, to tell you the truth, and I'm hampered by working on the netbook's small screen. What becomes very evident, though, is that I have many, many more posts than can ever fit into the space of my vacation -- I'm thinking now that I may begin a weekly post that will extend through the year in which I can share some of my favourite images and perhaps a few reflections. We'll see . . .

Meanwhile, I've put together a brief introduction to the Madame Grès exposition we saw a week or so ago at the Musée Bourdelle. Before taking you inside to peek at some of Grès's wonderful creations I thought you'd enjoy peering in through the gate. We certainly did as we approached -- the street, just a few blocks below the Montparnasse station, is otherwise unremarkably residential, punctuated by a restaurant, cafe, a shop or two. And then just beyond the metal bars is a stunning courtyard filled with monumental sculptures and wrapped by a striking building.

Just look at the clean simplicity, ease, and fluid elegance of this lovely nude.
Even had we missed the Grès expo, we would have been thrilled to discover this museum, as we were a few years ago to stumble across the Musée Zadkine. In both museums, travellers who are wearying a bit of Paris's pace can slow down, breathe deeply, enjoy a quiet garden while walking through buildings of a more human scale than, say, the Orsay or the Louvre.

Although the Great Hall of the Musée Bourdelle is not a good example of that scale! Here stands one dear human contemplating Bourdelle's heroic sculptures.

Yet despite the Hall's immensity, its muted tones and sumptuous stone surfaces provided a fitting backdrop for the dialectic between simple shapes and complex foldings of Grès couture. A sculptor at heart, her designs hold their own in these rooms of high art. . . . even her muslins, as te one below, compare favourably.

The juxtaposition of the different art forms reminded Pater and I of another contrasted pairing, one we'd just seen over at the Louvre where the works of contemporary sculptor Tony Cragg are presented in dialogue with more classical works in the Cour Marly and Cour Puget. Very effective.

On that visit to the Louvre, we were fortunate enough to follow a group of young children whose lesson included instruction from this classical statue sprung to life -- an explanation, perhaps, for that finely-honed Parisien aesthetic might be found in such exposure from early days.

Aside from such musing, though, I couldn't help be reminded of this scene when I spotted the Grès muslin above.
Here's a sculpture (in wood) by Cragg -- note how beautifully it speaks to the surrounding marble
Just as this wonderful evening creation by Grès does, despite its protective casing.

The dress dates from around 1945, according to the accompanying plaque.
And I knew you'd want a closer look through the glass . . .the intricacy of the folds is stunning.

and the dress offers a surprise that belies the seeming seriousness of its construction . . .
Perhaps this brief tour into the Musée Bourdelle has whetted your appetite -- I hope so, because I have dozens more photos of the exposition, and I'll be posting more soon. But there's a competition here with over 1200 photos in various France 2011 folders on my netbook, everyone screaming "Pick me! Pick me!" A glorious challenge indeed.


  1. Fabulous, Mater. The gown with it's folds is ethereal! I am putting the Bourdelle on my short list. Merci Beaucoup.

  2. I love those visual juxtapositions. Looking forward to seeing more pics from this exhibit! Those

    On our second trip, I was awed as we were strolling through the Carnavalet to come across a group of children who appeared to be about 4-5, sitting very still and listening intently while a teacher or guide was speaking about the portraits in that particular hall.

  3. Stunning. Repeating the other comments, the juxtaposition seems to highlight the intrinsic beauty of the different 'objects'. That's the kind of place I could get stuck for hours on end ...

  4. Gorgeous images! Your idea of posts later is wonderful, giving us treats instead of gorging on everything at once. (But these of the moment posts are delightful too!)

  5. i, too, enjoyed the juxtapositioning .. i can't imagine what it must feel like to be in the presence of such art .. how wonderfull for you and pater .. carry on!

  6. I'm sort of intoxicated with your trip, just from here. You must be completely drunk from it all.

  7. that looks like a pretty wicked day! xoxo to you both from Lisa (nothin' goin on here but marking and cold wet weather--don't be rushing home just yet!)

  8. Marguerite: You'll love it!
    Pseu: isn't it amazing to catch scenes like that -- of course, we see kids fidgeting and goofing around in groups like that, but for the most part, they're surprisingly attentive -- at the very least, they have this incredible vocabulary right from the start.
    Tiffany: It would take several visits to really begin to take in what's on offer here -- besides the Grès there's bourdelle's work, plus the historical significance of his room, his gardens, etc.
    Duchesse: Thanks for the encouragement -- it always seems a shame to push the holiday back into its album and be done with it so quickly.
    Jane: Thanks. It really is the interplay between the two artists'work that lifts the exhibition.
    Lisa: Drunk, exhausted, exhilarated sore-footed, supremely content . . .
    and other Lisa: I'll be glad to get back to my people, especially the wee one, and to my garden, etc., but I really hope the weather improves -- I feel guilty to be enjoying such great sunshine here while you've languished in cold and rain ever since we left!

  9. Absolutely stunning, the museum is the perfect setting - the stone sculptures and beautifully draped dresses compliment each other so well. Have you ever been to the Fortuny Museum in Venice?

  10. Isn't it great? It's more synergy than symbiosis.
    No, sadly, I've never been to Venice but it's on the list, moving its way ever higher. sounds as if I should add the Fortuny Museum to the must-sees there.


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