One girl, two museums

I don’t really understand why it’s considered weird or uncool to do cultural activities alone.

Take the cinema, for example; it’s the least sociable activity possible, yet people rarely go to watch films by themselves. Surely it’s less sad than watching a chick flick alone on your laptop, but for some reason there’s a weird stigma around it.

I went to see Gone Girl on Saturday and – to cut a long story short – my friend didn’t managed to navigate the maze of the Les Halles shopping centre in time to join me. Although I missed her, I was still able to enjoy the film – it’s not as if we would have been able to properly discuss it during the viewing anyway. However, when telling a couple of friends about our failed cinema date later on, they were shocked that I stayed and watched the film after learning that Hannah wasn’t going to make it. I actually think they would have expected me to leave the cinema, rather than suffer the humiliation of watching a really great film alone (with 300 other people).

Similarly, I bumped into some friends on Saturday after a solo visit to the Musée de Luxembourg. They were similarly surprised that I bothered to “do culture” by myself, and that I actually enjoy it and don’t just go to galleries to be pretentious and tick things off lists. Sophia had gone back to London for the weekend and, although I kept myself busy being sociable, being sans collocataire was hardly going to stop me from exploring Paris in the daytime.

In the same way that I could never go for a run with a friend, I think I actually prefer going to art galleries by myself. You can go at your own pace, stopping when you need to and speeding up as and when you fancy. There’s nothing worse than being dragged round a boring museum by someone who is clearly having a much better time than you, and it’s also annoying to have to rush round an exhibition you’ve paid to visit and are really enjoying because your friend would rather look at rubbers in the gift shop.

I went to the Musée d’Orsay after work a few weeks ago and, feeling too tired to go around the whole gallery, I simply visited a few familiar Van Goghs, Cézannes and Monets and then called it a day. Sophia had already been the week before, and so we were still able to discuss the museum and what we enjoyed about it when I got home.

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So, when Sophia’s mum was staying last weekend, I decided to take myself to the Louvre for the first time.

I wasn’t really sure what to think. It was great to finally see what all the hype is about, but there were just too many tourists. I’m not a big fan of massive crowds – I get pretty claustrophobic and grumpy -, and it didn’t really help that the museum is a giant maze, completely impossible to navigate.

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I had to queue for half an hour, which was nowhere near as long as I had anticipated after seeing the queue stretching round the edges of the courtyard. It happened to be the first Sunday of the month, which meant that the museum was completely free. Perhaps this is why it was so busy, but at least I didn’t have to queue for tickets once I’d got in.

Like every other tourist, the first thing I went to see was the Mona Lisa.

I really don’t know much about art but I genuinely enjoy going to galleries and contemplating the pictures, and something about the Mona Lisa made me really sad. The painting was completely surrounded by tourists, and I was barely able to see poor Mona for the twenty Go Pros and smartphones held up in the air. No one seemed to be looking directly at Da Vinci’s masterpiece, but rather blindly taking photos just for the sake of taking photos.

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And once I’d seen it – and taken my own photo of course – I was jostled out the way by someone else wanting to capture the moment on their Nikon. I would like to know how many of those tourists were actually interested in the art; most of them were probably there to tick another thing off the list of famous places to visit on their whistlestop tour of the city/ Europe.

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I was much happier in the 19th Century rooms and the English and Spanish sections, where there were fewer people and you could actually see the art up close. No one was pushing past you, and you could stop and look at the paintings when you wanted to.

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I studied Diderot’s ‘Salon de 1765’ last term and so, after reading pretty detailed descriptions of Chardin’s art, I really enjoyed seeing some of his paintings in the flesh. The ‘Salons’ are a series of books in which Diderot describes French art to foreign royals so that they can decide what to purchase for their collections without having to visit the Salons themselves. If only they’d had Snapchat, young Denis Did could have saved himself a lot of time and effort!

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I really enjoyed my first trip to the Louvre, but I definitely prefer smaller, quieter galleries where you can actually enjoy the art, and where the art is the focal point, rather than the hype surrounding the museum.

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Wanting to make the most of my time in Paris, last Saturday’s (solo) cultural expedition was a visit to the Musée de Luxembourg. (i.e. I wanted to go shopping on Rue de Rennes and thought a quick blitz round a museum might make me feel less guilty about the state of my bank balance)

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It was a lovely sunny day, and so I stopped for a rest in the Jardins de Luxembourg before heading on in to the art gallery.

Coincidentally, a new exhibition had opened the day before, so I was even more impressed with myself for going!

The exhibition is focused on the art collector Durand-Ruel, a 19th Century art dealer and expert on the Impressionnists.

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I loved this exhibition for various reasons.

Firstly, unlike the Louvre, it was short and sweet; there was a small queue to get in but there were only six small rooms and so it was very easy to navigate.

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I liked the narrative that threaded the exhibition together, going from London, to Paris and finally to New York, and taking us step-by-step through Durand’s growing art collection.

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Always one for variety, I liked the breadth of the exhibition (even though it was all Impressionist art). There were a lot of paintings by Monet, but also many by Renoir, Dégas, Pissarot and Cézanne.

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I also approved of the detailed information provided on the plaques. I like looking at paintings, but I really don’t know very much about actual art. Rather than analysing techniques and composition, I much prefer learning about the context surrounding the artwork and the particular movement, and about the artists’ personal lives.

The exhibition opened with a few paintings by Renoir of Durand-Ruel’s children, and I liked how this established the tone of the rest of the collection.

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Overall it was a nice little trip, and I would definitely recommend the exhibition.

I’m sure I would have loved to go with a friend – and then go for hot chocolate at the Angelina next door (I am SO desperate to try these) -, but going alone did in no way hinder my enjoyment!

Next in the series of ‘Solo Trips Around Paris’: ElizaEnRoute braves a lonely visit to the Musée de la Chasse et la Nature!!

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