As usual, my first night in a strange hotel room left me on the short end of a good night’s sleep.
The plumbing and the light switch thing (one switch by the door turns everything on or off) is something you would think I would have figured out by now, but then it is the French. A quick shower and I was ready for some breakfast. It is always interesting to watch the crowds in the breakfast cafés in different hotels across the world. Though local customs and cuisine are always a little or sometimes very different (some interesting dining stories about China I could tell), the same basic human needs and behavior can always be seen. I like to imagine that these folks are not all that different from myself.
After a baguette with orange marmalade and some yogurt and tea (I had stopped drinking coffee years ago and I wasn’t about to change that habit), I returned to my room and retrieved my package for delivery and headed down to the lobby. There I grabbed a taxi headed to The Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées.
Known simply as the Grand Palais, it is a magnificent and large exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées at, get this address now, 3 Avenue du Général Eisenhower. The French do remember what America did for them. Having been built in 1897, it would be considered old by American standards but not here in Paris where the oldest standing building in use is over six hundred years old.
The cabbie dropped me off and I proceeded to the head curator’s office where I was met along with a group of officials of whom I had no idea who they were or why they were there. But then when you are releasing into their hands on loan for exhibition in the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux Arts a collection piece you own, small though it were, by Paris’ own Gustave Caillebotte, there has to be great fanfare as well as legitimate legal papers to be signed.
Gustave actually first became a lawyer and an engineer before pursuing a career in art. Around 1874, Caillebotte had met and befriended several artists working outside the Académie des Beaux-Arts, including the already famous artist Edgar Degas. Degas’ influence can be seen in much of Caillebotte’s works. Perhaps you may not recognize this artist by name, but you may very well recognize one of his most famous paintings; “Paris Street, Rainy Day”.
Painted in 1877, it is impressive in size at 7 feet by 9 feet and enhanced linear perspective, reflective I believe of his engineering training. There is also something exciting about this great work of Caillebotte; you can see it in person. This painting is part of the permanent collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. And as some of you know, one of the fun things I like to do is introduce young (and old) art enthusiasts to the Art Institute. An hour and a half train ride to downtown Chicago from Milwaukee’s Intermodal station and a 15 minute walk from Union Station to the Institute, I am your official escort on a day trip to experience the wonders of the Art Institute of Chicago. Give me a call or email if you have an interest!