September 19, 2007

The Musee d’Orsay in Paris

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:39 pm by classicalmusic

Formerly an elegant 19th century railroad station, this beautiful and graceful building is now an attractive museum.

Spend a Day in an RR Station without Taking a Train

Visitors to Paris invariably head for the Louvre, but the Louvre is so big that it frightens me.  I don’t know where to go first, and I easily become confused.  So I head for the Musee d’Orsay.  This beautiful former railroad station was inaugurated as a museum in 1986.  Even if you don’t like art, it is worth your while to go through the building to see how, overlooking the Seine and across the river from the Louvre and the Tuileries, this former RR station was transformed into a museum.  It is probably my favorite Paris museum.

I always head for the upper level, where looking out the windows one gets a lovely view of the Seine, and where you find the galleries with the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.  In addition to gorgeous Van Goghs, Renoirs, Cezannes and Monets, the Orsay has a marvelous collection of Degas sculptures: his ballet dancers and race horses.  I can stand for hours at a time contemplating these delicate bronze sculptures – figures that seem to have been arrested in full flight or movement.

After going through the galleries of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, you can get a bite to eat at the Orsay’s pleasant cafeteria, rest your feet for awhile, and then go on to the terrace where you can wander through the Rodin sculptures.  If you still have some strength left in your legs, the ground floor of the museum holds artworks from the Classic-Romantic era, but my favorites are the Impressionists.

September 4, 2007

Prague’s Museum of Decorative Arts

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:21 am by classicalmusic

Most visitors to Prague miss this gem of a museum.

The Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts

Tourists visiting Prague generally go for the National Museum of Arts and the Clementinum (the National Library), but most of them never even hear about the Museum of Decorative Arts.  Although it is listed in all the guide books, and it is located close to the Smetena Museum and the old Jewish Quarter, it is one of those places that ordinary tourists simply don’t have time to see.

I was fortunate enough to have been advised by a friend who lives in Prague to be sure to get there.  Firstly, she told me, there will not be a lot of people inside, and you can see all the exhibits without fighting a crowd.  Secondly, she added, from the toilets one gets the best-ever view of the old Jewish Cemetary!  Well, she was right in both respects.  I got there around 10:30 a.m. and was the only visitor, although a few more showed up later.  The museum’s permanent exhibits are on the first floor which means climbing two flights of monumental stairs.  But once you have made the climb, it is definitely worth the effort.  There is a very large, long rectangular room with old, old tapestries hung along the walls while down the center is a huge glass enclosed display of fashions for brides and grooms beginning with the 1700’s and going all through to the 1940’s.  The materials on the bride and groom mannikins are magnificent, many of the older ones having been completely handmade.

For porcelain, glass and crystal lovers there is a large room holding magnificent displays of old Czech crystal table ware and decorative pieces and gorgeous sets of porcelain from all over Europe including Delft and Limoges.  However, my favorite room was the one that held all kinds of old clocks, watches, sextants, compasses, etc.  Many of them dated as far back as the 13th century and all of them were absolutely fascinating and wondrous to behold.

On the ground floor of the museum there are two large rooms for temporary exhibits.  The day I was there, they were showing handblown glass figures, some of them huge, by two contemporary Czech artists – all of the figures were either creepy crawly things like beetles, bees, spiders, etc. or fish.  Although the blown glass was really beautiful, creepy crawlies are not my cup of tea, so I went through the two rooms very quickly.  If you are in Prague and have the time, visit this 17th century palazzo-style building that holds the Museum of Decorative Arts.