Saturday in St Germain-des-Prés
Yesterday I spent the afternoon and early evening in St Germain des Prés in Paris. I had two obejectives, sound hunting of course, but also to go to the Jean Gaumy photographic exhibition, La Tentation du Paysage, in the new Magnum gallery at 13 rue de l’Abbeye. For those who don’t know it, rue de l’Abbeye is a small street next to the church of St Germain-des-Prés running parallel to and one street away from the Boulevard Saint-Germain.
The Magnum Gallery
To see the inside of the gallery go to: www.magnumgallery.fr
For details of the exhibition go to:
The exhibition is advertised as being “the fruit of weeks spent in solitary throughout the valleys between France and Italy from the upper Cuneo valleys in the Piedmont region. The goal: to testify on the landscape, making it extremely rare to seem abstract, and yet with a real range of emotions that the artist has proven. From 2003 to 2010 these pictures from the mountainous landscape and scenes of daily life tells a perception of being settled a territory “frontier” for a close relationship of people with nature, a passage of time still permeated with a kind of archaic rhythms.” Slightly fractured English I know but I have quoted it directly from the official blurb.
I enjoyed the exhibition even if there were only twelve photographs. The photographs are large, well spaced out giving each picture room to breath and, of course, each is beautifully printed. I was impressed with how each picture at first sight has an abstract quality but once one reads oneself into the picture more of the detail and structure becomes clear. The exhibition is well worth seeing.
A note about the photographer, Jean Gaumy, whose work is featured in this exhibition:
Born in 1948, Jean Gaumy is French and was raised in the southwest of France. He began working as a writer and photographer for a local newspaper in Rouen while studying literature at university from 1969 to 1972. In 1973 he joined the Gamma photo agency and then, four years later, Magnum Photos. He became a full Member of Magnum in 1986.
In 1975 he was given permission to undertake an in-depth study of a French hospital, documenting the daily lives of doctors and patients. The result was a stark statement about the health care system. The following year he was the first photojournalist to be allowed inside a French prison; his work there resulted in a book in 1983: Les Incarcérés (The Imprisoned).
Gaumy completed numerous assignments in Europe, Africa, Central America and the Middle East. Between 1986 and 1994 he frequently visited Iran. His photograph of Iranian women during the Iran-Iraq War practicing firing their weapons earned him international recognition.
Gaumy has often returned to his maritime roots. He sailed on fishing boats many times between 1984 and 1998. In 2001 he published Le Livre des Tempêtes, à Bord de l’Abeille Flandre (The Book of Storms on Board the ‘Abeille Flandre’). In the same year Pleine Mer (published in English as Men at Sea) appeared; this photographic overview of fourteen years spent studying the daily life of ships’ crews, accompanied by excerpts from Gaumy’s private diary, won the 2001 Nadar Award for the book of the year.
Musée National Eugène Delacroix
My next stop on this Saturday afternoon was to the Musée National Delacroix in the rue de Furstenburg which I came across completely by accident.
The museum is housed in part of the painter’s apartment and studio. Delacroix moved to rue de Furstenberg on December 28, 1857. He had left his rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette’ studio to get closer to the Church of Saint-Sulpice for which he was in charge of decorating a chapel, now called the Chapel of the Holy Angels. Although seriously ill, he was determined to finish his work at the chapel but was unable to manage a long trip daily.
In order to prevent the destruction of the studio to make room for a parking garage, the Society of Eugène Delacroix was formed in 1932 on request of the painters Maurice Denis and Paul Signac. The Society was able to rent the studio then the apartment. Its purpose was to “provide for and maintain ” the premises and promote Delacroix’s work. In 1952, the building was put up for sale and the society, unable to acquire the premises, gave its collection to the French State in order to secure it and create a museum which became, in 1971 the Eugène Delacroix National Museum.
The three rooms of the apartment -bedroom, living room, library- as well as the studio are open to visitors. The dining room houses the documentation which can be consulted by appointment only. The garden is also open to the public. An important part of Delacroix ‘s furniture was dispersed after his death. However, thanks to the descriptions given in the posthumous inventory, some pieces of furniture were acquired. It is primarily his works of art, small paintings, drawings, lithographs as well as letters and miscellaneous keepsakes which allow the visitor access to the painter’s private world.
In the bedroom where Delacroix died on August 13, 1863, one finds, aside from family portraits, a painting of Jenny Le Guillou, his faithful servant who stayed by his side at his deathbed. The beautiful Mary Magdalen in the Wilderness is exhibited in the living room along with drawings, pastels and watercolors shown in rotation because of their fragility. The studio was built according to Delacroix’s plans and careful supervision.
One can see three frescoes which Delacroix painted for Valmont Abbey as well as an easel and painting tables which belonged to him. Paintings, drawings lithographs with literary, decorative or animal subjects are also exhibited.
For a modest €5.00 entry fee this museum is well worth a visit.
Sound Hunting in St Germain-des-Prés
After World War II, St Germain des Prés became synonomous with intellectual life centred around the bars and cafés. Philosophers, writers, actors and muscians mingled in the cellar nightspots and brasseries, where existentialist philosophy co-existed with American jazz. The area is now smarter than in the heyday of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beavoir and the New Wave film-makers. The writers are still around sitting in Les Deux Maggots, Café Flore and other haunts. The seventeenth-century buildings have survived but now co-existing alongside the affluent shops dealing in antiques, books and fashion.
St Germain-des-Prés is rich in sound. Cafés, bars, brasseries, street markets and buskers are rich fodder for the sound hunter. Walking in the area between the rue Bonaparte and the rue de Seine I collected several useful binaural “atmospheres” which have been added to my Paris Soundscape library. Also added to the library are binaural recordings of a choir in the Church of St Germain-des-Prés as well as recordings of the jazz ensemble that regularly plays on the corner of the Boulvard St Germain and the rue Bonaparte opposite Les Deux Maggots. Anyone who has visited St Germain must have heard this group of five jazz musicians who bring joy to so many tourists who frequent the area.
This is a short extract of what they sounded like yesterday. Jazz; St Germain