Archive for June, 2015

French Masters of Art Nouveau

June 25, 2015 @ 6:20 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Nancy france art nouveau

Emile Gallé writing desk

A couple of months ago, I extolled the virtues of Reims; where the massive destruction during World War I yielded reconstruction that transformed the city into the Art Deco capital of today.  If Reims is the capital, Nancy – to the East – is close behind and with a decidedly ironic art history.  Louis XV bequeathed to the deposed King of Poland (his father-in-law) the Lorraine region, and the “king without a kingdom” set out to link the old and new cities of Nancy in a move that brought about significant Art Nouveau style.

Moving forward a few hundred years, we in Central Florida are fortunate to access a special exhibition – Lifelines—Forms and Themes of Art Nouveau – at the renowned Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art.  No, don’t be put off by that title, because the museum not only showcases the most comprehensive collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany but the work of numerous French artists

As a sophomore at Rollins College, I was privileged to work for the college President – Hugh McKean – who had studied art at Tiffany’s Laurelton Hall in Long Island.  Mr. McKean and his wife, artist Jeanette Genius McKean, were singularly responsible for gathering the magnificent Tiffany collection we enjoy in Winter Park today.

With all of that history aside, the phenomenal Art Noveau exhibition runs through September of 2016 and includes the works of two outstanding French artists – Emile Gallé of Nancy and Clément Massier of Golfe-Juan.  Accomplished in glass and wood creations, Gallé looked to nature and literature for inspiration and often carved or sealed a poetic sentence in his vases.  His works dating to the late 1800’s included fern, orchid and insect motifs.  His work is quite at home with that of Tiffany in his creative visual treatment of glass.

Art Nouveau, France

Clément Massier lustre-glazed pottery vase

Clément Massier was born into a ceramist family and ultimately relocated his portion of the family business to Golfe-Juan, France, where his pottery evoked a Hispano-Moresque influence with iridescent silver and copper oxide glazes.  Without fail, he attracted an international clientele in his Mediterranean showroom.

Both artists contributed that wonderful “French touch” in an era of redefined design and rich natural images.  Hopefully readers from the Central Florida area will be able to attend the exhibit.  The rest, I’m afraid, will have to go to France for a first-hand look!

We’d love to hear from you!

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Une Nuit de Joie – Paris

June 24, 2015 @ 8:14 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Paris France wine bars

Enchanting L’Ecluse wine bars, Paris

Finally I celebrated Paris with my daughter. After two solo trips in which I had immersed myself in this lovely city and country, I gifted an airline ticket to my daughter and off we went.

On our first night, our good friend had a gift for us – tickets to a concert at a theatre on Avenue des Champs Élysées. Another friend joined us, and the four of us we made our way to spectacular front-row seats. Imagine the thrill of attending a concert in the heart of The City of Light!

Onto the stage stepped an attractive Dean Martin-style crooner dressed in a subtle medium gray, tailored suit and surrounded by femmes in chiffon-y, floating dresses of the same color. Not to demean the lovely gift of concert tickets, by the third song we realized that the style of music matched the color scheme – grey, flat and colorless. As soon as a break occurred, we headed for the exit.

Now, here is when we made lemonade of lemons … or rather wine of grapes. Off we went to an intimate little wine bar – L’Ecluse in the 6th arrondissement. With no less than five locations in Paris, L’Ecluse enjoys a sparkling reputation for friendly service and exceptional wine collections. Over a plate of savory cheeses from Camembert and Tomme Laïous to Roquefort and nun-inspired Trappe Echourgnac, we inhaled delicate white wines from the Médoc and Pomerol regions as well as Saint Émilion.

French cheeses and wine

Savory French cheeses and crisp, white wine

Our ‘hen party’ joie de vivre even exceeded the delightful libations, bubbling over to adjacent tables to become the center of one of the happiest settings of Paris that evening.

“What are you celebrating?” a person from the next table asked.

“Joie de vivre, mais oui!”

Were we timid? Did any language barrier mar the evening? Did we worry about being Americans in Paris, when there was ill will between our countries?

Non. Non. Et non.

I find that French people gravitate to Americans – especially those who adore France. That evening – from the charming waiter to the L’Ecluse customers – their curiosity was sated by a table full of women who celebrated life, friendship and abundant good will.

We’d love to hear from you!
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A Grey Side of Paris

June 23, 2015 @ 11:43 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Paris clochards

Joy and hopelessness – Abbesses, Paris

I usually write about all of the bright, beautiful charm of Paris.  Bien sur!  Each corner holds some enchanting sight, sound or aroma.  Today, though, I am remembering a different reality – that of homelessness and hopelessness – and offering a small suggestion for action.

Clochard is French slang for a ‘sans domicile fixe’ – a homeless person in France.  I first saw a group of clochards under the Pont de Sully, while walking along the river quai with my friend.  She told me they were clochards – homeless but harmless.  Indeed, when we walked by, a couple of them wished us a pleasant “Bonjour Mesdames”.

You will see them throughout the city, though, on the street or a bench or huddled against the cold on a Metro grid, where hot air rises to warm them.  Often under the renowned bridges of Paris; they gather as if in a village, with meager belongings, pieces of cardboard and soiled sleeping bags that help to lessen the damp concrete in the night.

If you were to talk to each, the stories would vary.  Joblessness – prolonged with the condition of “sleeping rough”.  Addiction – cheap French wine becomes a friend.   The reasons are universal, as understandable in France as in any city of the world.

But there is a difference in France – a lack of judgment.  Homelessness doesn’t carry the same stigma.  The police don’t bother them, but patrol to check on their wellbeing.  Begging isn’t criminalized.  The politicians, without success, look for solutions.   According to a Sciences Po sociologist, “Paris is seen as an extremely tolerant city and generous in its offer of aid and social protection.”   In fact one poll found 75% of French people in solidarity with the homeless population.

The last time we were in Paris, the weather chilled to the bone, unusually so for early April.  In those conditions, you can’t help noticing the huddled bodies on the sidewalk, in a corner, beneath a bridge.  As we prepared to leave, we packed up several clean items of clothing – a raincoat, a pair of shoes, a couple of sweaters and jeans – nothing enormous but perhaps a small help.  In the evening, we took the bag down to the street to the lovely little church – Saint- Louis en L’Île.  A priest was greeting parishioners near the door, and we handed him the bag.  He looked inside, smiled and said, “Merci.”

Ours was a small gesture, but I was heartened to learn about a young lawyer in an affluent neighborhood in Paris.  An older Romanian woman in his neighborhood attracted the young attorney’s attention.

Angry and frustrated, Joël Catherin made the first of many cardboard signs:  “I could be your grandmother.”  That sign made a difference, and people who might otherwise have passed an “I’m hungry” sign gave more generously, spoke to the woman and offered other assistance.  Perhaps the sign’s simplicity made people see the human face of suffering and impacted the way people view others.

Suffering makes us uncomfortable.  The beggar even can scare us; but whether we are in Paris or New York or Orlando or Topeka, we can offer the same kind of empathy and whatever assistance we can to those who suffer in homelessness and more often, in hopelessness.

We’d love to hear from you!

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Vivre Ensemble La Musique

June 22, 2015 @ 9:01 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Paris music festival

Celebrating Fete de la Musique – 2015

Living together. The theme for the 2015 Fête de la Musique no doubt reflected the somber Charlie Hebdo catastrophe as well as the ongoing economic and social challenges all of France … and the world faces. And how apropos to remind everyone during a delightful night of free music, this national holiday celebration that has spread throughout the world, that we live together and should strive to do so with the same harmony we enjoy in music.

This joie de vivre and celebration of culture highlight just one area of the gazillion attributes I love about France. I can’t help but think of Field of Dreams, the movie from which the famous line comes: “If you build it, they will come”.

When, the Ministry of Culture and Communication initiated la Fête back in 1982, they accomplished precisely that goal. They chose the night of the summer solstice to celebrate the expression and dynamics of musical life in offering “music everywhere and the concert nowhere”.

Hosting that first holiday of music 34 years ago, Paris created its own “Field of Dreams”, when people throughout the City of Light came together in the streets to rejoice in an entire night of free music. And did you know that one underlying reason for creating this monumental event was the study that five million people – one out of two children in France – played a musical instrument? That first celebration and each to follow opened the gates to professional and amateur musicians to perform for all of the people, regardless of age or social condition … and to do so “without lucrative purpose”. In this profiteering age, you have to love those sensibilities!

Paris music festival

Place Dauphine – dining with chamber music!

Is it any surprise that the Fête de la Musique not only became one of the greatest French cultural events but spread to nearly all corners of the earth? The celebration now takes place in Luxembourg, Italy, Peru, Mexico, New York and beyond.

We remember well this night of magic in Paris; when chamber musicians filled Place Dauphine near our sidewalk table, as we dined. And Indians in full ceremonial dress performed in front of Notre Dame, and seemingly every little corner and quai offered a unique musical presentation. Somehow, when the night is filled with music, the heart is filled with joy.

We’d love to hear from you!
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