A Trip To Père Lachaise Cemetery

Today we decided to chance the rain and make a pilgrimage to Père Lachaise Cemetery to visit the tomb of Oscar Wilde. Located in eastern Paris in the 20th Arrondisement, getting to the cemetery entailed a rather long bus trip across Paris. Upon arrival, we consulted a map, and after some hiking around, we located Oscar Wild’s grave. Compared to the Cimetière de Montmartre, this cemetery is huge…so huge that you could fit the entire town of Tombstone in it and still have room left over (OK, may we exaggerate a bit there…).  Here’s some views that we got:

The tomb with its Sphinx-like figure is a fascinating piece of artwork and was executed by the artist Jacob Epstein and the circumstances of its creation were somewhat controversial, especially since the original designs involved figures with extensive genitalia. For an interesting overview, click HERE. You’ll note that there’s a glass barrier surrounding the lower part of the tomb- that’s to prevent contact with the stone- for many years, there was a tradition of kissing the tombstone while wearing red lipstick. Cleaning the lipstick kisses off actually made the stone more porous and thus, more susceptible to deterioration so in 2011, the glass barrier was installed.

Initially opened in 1804, the cemetery houses a large number of graves of various notable people. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we weren’t able to view them all but we did manage to get this picture of the writer Richard Wright’s tomb, really more of a place where his ashes are interred:

And this one is of Alphonse Bertillon, French criminologist who invented one of the first widely used method, the Bertillon System, of identifying individuals:

It was a very humbling experience visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery and we definitely want to return to view it more in detail.

 

Toulouse-Lautrec

The musee de jour is the Toulouse-Lautrec Exhibit at the Grand Palais and it was simply amazing. This is probably one of the largest exhibitions of his work ever staged and it featured both his well-known as well as lesser known works. We wisely arrived early to avoid the crowds (something we’d recommend visiting any museum exhibition in Paris) and we were quickly admitted.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a multi-talented artist, working in various mediums to include paints, pastels, and graphic poster printing. Much of his work centered on Monmarte and its brothels and the Moulin Rouge which opened in 1889 and he depicted scenes in a realistic manner but stripped of any glamour, simply showing the humanity underneath, and in the case of the brothel scenes, just how depressing it was. Below are some of his works that we found especially interesting:

This one was more of a study rather than a finished work but it’s fascinating in that he captures the individual in motion.

One of numerous examples of his work with posters.

This one is only a segment of a larger work (I wasn’t able to pull back and get the full work because of the crowds).

This one is especially fascinating with the sitter’s facial expression- it looks positively predatory which is no surprise, given the world Toulouse-Lautrec worked in. Overall, this was an excellent exhibition and provides a fascinating view of a multi-talented artist who portrayed a realistic slice of life while at the same time battling his own personal demons. This was a sobering visual experience and we’ll be thinking about this exhibition for quite some time.

 

 

At The Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris

Ernest Duez’s portrait has always been a fashion bestie of mine, and her petit chien is a bonus. I had no idea this painting was life size, definitely a fashion moment for me!

And here’s a close-up of the portrait:

Ernest Duez (1843-1896), Splendeur, 1874

The Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris is a fascinating place to visit. Stay tuned for more!