A cliché to say, but Paris looks like the best designed and most artistic city in the world. Although I have visited Paris several times in the past, I felt this time more connected and comfortable as this is my third year in France. The only stumble block was getting familiar with the metro system which takes some days to get used to, until you realise exactly where you are in the vastness of the city. My major plan for the three nights I was going to stay was – to see The Nymphéas by Monet.
Claude Monet donated his eight panoramic panels of Water Lilies in 1918 to the French Government as a symbol of peace, as contemplating the tranquil images would inspire peace in people. Indeed, when I entered the first oval room, the presence of the paintings covering the full length of each wall emanated an inviting quietness. And this in spite of the constant flow of visitors that went about. Inspiring in image, color and presence, it speaks with how much peaceful concentration Monet must have creatied each panel.
The eight paintings of the Nymphéas make a length of about one hundred meters and should be seen as forming one uninterrupted picture, with “no horizon and no shore” said Claude Monet. The unique design of the two oval rooms is that they are lit from the ceiling with filtered daylight, making the colors in the paintings change in intensity with the fluctuations of the weather. The two ovals resemble the symbol of Infinity.
Seeing the Nymphéas by Monet was fulfilling, within and without. The previous day had been nourishing as well, visiting two exotic museums with friend Annemarie who once lived in Marseille, the neighbor of John’s family. She knows about my interest in Asian spiritual art and took me to Cernuschi Museum which displays the private collection of late Italian banker and art collector Henri Cernuschi. His collections of exquisite art and his spacious mansion were donated by him in 1898 to the City of Paris, which turned it into a museum, free for all to visit.
The second museum was Musée Guimet, founded in 1889 by industrialist Emile Guimet which contains one of the largest collections of Asian art in Europe, where they had my favorite ‘meditative’ art from India. Although most of the Asian art collections come from China, Tibet, Nepal, Cambodia and Japan, they are all inspired by the diverse spiritual culture of India. Similar to the presence of Monet’s Nymphéas, the presence of the art here also inspires the quietness of the spirit as that is what most figures represent.
Not wanting to spend all my time inside museums, I headed for another favorite area, the Eiffel Tower, the most vast part of the city with the river Seine between Tower and the Trocadero Gardens. It is here where one can conclude how beautifully this city has been designed and built, with space and parcs as the main key for city-living combined with decorative art and architecture wherever one looks.
Before the Eiffel Tower was built people harshly criticised the idea of a steel tower, calling it names. When the design of a glass Pyramid was chosen to decorate the courtyard of the Louvre Palace people thought it was sacrilege. But thanks to the inherent open mindedness of the French culture, genius artists keep Paris wondrous.