Sketches from a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
One day in Paris, as we made our way downtown from the Palace Royale metro stop, Andi, Hilary and I came upon a strings ensemble of men and women seated in a round in one of those silvery street squares you find in front of a cafe with streets leading in and out of roads overlooked by the city’s colossal limestone masterbuildings. A cello hum led into rapidly vibrating violins, striking up a magnificent, sublime dance of desire and disquiet. The three of us had already stopped in our tracks, dazzled, and we stood. L’Amour Sorcier it was called, I noticed looking over the shoulder of one player.
The light cast itself across the busy street between walls and onto the players, illuminating the bow of a violinist as he leaned into his instrument, this way and that. It was one of those moments when one revels in the rarity of the circumstances, finding it almost impossible to be alive in this time and place, here where symphonies play on sunny Paris avenues. But then it seemed to flee from my eyes and ears as soon as it began; barely graspable the way birds fly off when you try to chase them. A violinist slid his bow across one final note.
There was applause. We nodded at each other and began to mosey down the sidewalk. Should we go find lunch? I noticed Hilary still held her sketchbook with paper handouts sticking out, reminding me of the poem that our professor John had read that morning after we’d looked at Monet’s water lillies at the Marmottan. The Ninth Elegy by Rainer Maria Rilke: Hil had even read a section out loud when we were on the Metro, it so poignantly describing what we’d been experiencing at art school over the past few months, particularly during this five-day museum tour where we’d spent so much time just looking. And how much power there was in that, it had left me without words. Rembrandt’s self-portraits, Cezanne’s mountain and Monet’s Camille still lingered in my consciousness, and though we’d discussed them for hours, the mysteries of their existence always moved me more than I could ever articulate.
Behind us the strings ensemble drew their bows in a slower, more measured tune. Wait a minute, would Hilary read Rilke’s poem? I asked. Yes, she answered, absolutely loving the idea. We whipped back around and stood in a kind of reverence as she began. Words, cello and violin, light on the city noise and passing car. This and everything, all at once…
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Hilary in pen and watercolor.
Inside Cathedral St. Saveur this morning. Just another page in the ever-growing sketchbook.
Les Poissons Voyageurs
A member of Les Poissons Voyageurs from their concert Friday in Grenoble. More to come.
More recent landscapes from Tholonet
Oil painting from an afternoon in Tholonet, outside Aix-en-Provence, France
Paris le jour, Paris le nuit
“Il s’agit de saisir ce qui ne passe pas, dans ce qui passe” [what matters is to grasp what does not pass away in what passes away.] - Vincent Van Gogh
The Marchutz School spend the day walking around Arles and St. Remis, France, with copies of Van Gogh paintings and the question: What did he see?
Looking across the Scottish lowlands.
A few lost favorites from this summer in Cambridge.