Its the year of Venise in Paris. Not officially, of course, but with the Canelletto show at the Musée Maillol a the same time as the Caneletto Guardi show at the Jacquesmart André, it knd of felt like it. There is no denying that the city is breathtakingly beautiful with all the elements of great art ; dramatic sky, water elements, extravagant architecture, beautifully dressed townsfolk. But to be incredibly honest you’ve seen 100, you’ve seen them all. And I feel like I’ve had my share of Venetian scenery on oil.
But we’d missed the Jacquemart André show and Mr French, a secret romantic, had not had enough When he saw that Félix Ziem was showing at the Petit Palais, he insisted we attend. Now. Before the show leaves town. Even if it is a rare sunny day in Paris. Not wanting to squelch the inner romantic I so adore and knowing that Le Petit Palais has one of the most pleasant courtyards cafés in the entire city, we were out the door before you could say, « An exotic voyage for two ».
I had never heard of Ziem. The son of a Polish immigrant tailor, Ziem set sail from his native Beaune to become an architect at Marseille where he is seduce by art after a chance encounter with the Duc d’Orleans in the early 1840’s. He heads off for Italy, Turkey, and Egypt exploring the area and reveling in its exotic light and colors. In France he becomes part of the Barbizon school of painters and buys himself an extensive atelier on the hills of Montmarte.
But what about the art ? As you enter the exhibition there is a long case with his notebooks insinde and his drawings are exceptional. I was frustraed that I could only see the page displayed, when I looked up and saw a slideshow of one page after the other. And these were only the skectches.
His paintings had the light of Turner, the palette of Whistler and richness of Caneletto and most of it was not in Venice. I loved the diversity of the paintings displays. Ironically, my favorite work of art in the show was not by the author, but rather of the author’s brother François, a stunningly modern portrait on bare wood by Adolphe-Joseph Monticelli in 1853.