On the trail of
From Paris to Provence, wonderful new art experiences abound
THE most thrilling new artistic experience in Paris starts with something very old. Edouard Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe and its depiction of a nude woman reclining with male friends at a picnic scandalised Parisians when it was first displayed almost 150 years ago. But it has been given a new lease of life.
It is the first image to be seen upon entering the Impressionist gallery in the Musee d’Orsay after a recent $27 million renovation. In the revamped setting, Manet’s image seems as fresh and startling as it must have been upon its unveiling in 1863.
Since it opened 25 years ago in the converted beauxarts Orsay railway station, the museum has been renowned for its unrivalled collection of French masters. The redesign of the Impressionist gallery tries to re-create the viewing experience of a 19th-century Parisian home. New lighting techniques have been developed to suggest gentle sunlight and the colour of the walls changed from a bland white to a rich, slate grey, which allows the Impressionist brushwork and clarity of light to really pop.
The revamped Orsay is part of an exciting wave of expansion in the French art world. A string of bold museums has opened, while old favourites have been given a new lease of life. While in Paris, continue in a belle epoque vein by visiting the Baccarat Museum, where a glittering antique crystal collection is housed in a mansion redesigned by Philippe Starck.
Nearby, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, the sumptuous 1896 residence of French imperial prince Roland Bonaparte, grand-nephew of the emperor Napoleon, has been declared a monument historique and reopened as the Shangri-La Paris. Step back in time with high tea in the hotel’s grand salon, surrounded by enormous oil paintings and shimmering marble.
The south of France has long attracted artists with its gentle climate and its piercingly clear light. No sooner had the first train lines been built from Paris to the