#19. Modern Art and Montmartre; The Sacred Heart of Paris.

With my stay in Paris drawing ever closer to its conclusion, I decided to delve into a couple of the remaining, unexplored areas, and make the most of the little time I have left. Ah, a more saddening sentence has never been written. The novelties have swiftly become normality, and feelings of unfamiliarity have been replaced by an ever-deepening acquaintance with life in Paris. An excitement towards the new has been substituted for excitement towards its newfound familiarity. To say that I’ve found what I had been looking to find from Paris would be an understatement; it has, thus far, surpassed its reputation, through a perfect paint-palette of inspiration, excitement, knowledge and relaxation. But the trip isn’t over yet, thankfully.

Whilst I had visited the 4th arrondissement many times before, for the most part just to ogle at the Notre-Dame, I thought it was about time to tick off one of the world’s most famous modern art museums; the Centre Georges Pompidou. I will admit that, prior to my visit to the Pompidou, my interest in art post the late 19th-century was wafer-thin, and my knowledge of it – though still not of any great depth – was shallow, to put it mildly. Whilst I enjoyed the motives, concepts and theories behind some modern art, I had never found it as pleasing to the eye, or of as much interest with regards to its subject matter; 17th/18th century seascapes are more my sort of thing. However, even upon first sight of the Pompidou building, I knew it was going to be a unique experience. The museum, to put it bluntly, looked like the architectural work of a child let loose to play real-life Tetris with an array of coloured tube piping. I couldn’t get a decent photo of it so I’ve stolen this one from Google to give an idea of how distinct this place is;

The Pompidou comprises of several different facets, with the modern art gallery being only one of these. However, this was the collection I had come to see, and it instantly became one of my favourite visits thus far when the ticket office told me my entry was gratuit because I’m a 19 year-old from the E.U. (Side note; another reason why we shouldn’t leave the E.U.)

The collection of modern art here was my first real look into the world of pre-WWII and post-Victorian artwork, and I quickly saw similarities with the Musée Picasso, in the works that I was drawn to, in particular. The pieces encompassing abstract subject matter  just didn’t do it for me, though I now have a better understanding of the concepts behind such art. Instead, the two works that captivated me were the two that seemed to blend realism, in the form of subject matter, with surrealism, in their caricature-like colour-blocking, and a focus on expressing emotion through their more abstract depictions.

Henri Matisse’s Auguste Pellerin II from 1917 was the first of the pieces that I really enjoyed;

But once again, an artist who I first became familiar with in the Musée Picasso – André Derain – stole the show for me, with his Portrai d’Iterinno from 1914;

The other area to which I decided to venture was Montmartre; the cobbled-street ribcage that encompasses the sacred heart of Paris; the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Whilst the exterior beauty of the Notre-Dame remains unsurpassed, in my opinion, Paris’ Sacred Heart comes in at a close second. Sat atop a 130m-high hill, with steps leading from the market streets at the bottom to the very base of the Basilica, the Sacré-Cœur is another surreal sight. With respect to the rules of the Basilica, I couldn’t get any photos of its interior, which was one of the most beautifully decorated places of worship I’ve ever seen, despite being amongst a flash-frenzy mob as soon as I stepped inside.

After exploring the Basilica, I headed down the steps into a swarm of tourists. Through the fog of human sweat, amidst the thriving walkways, I spotted a chocolate shop surrounded by a small crowd. From first sight of its interior, you could tell it wasn’t an ordinary chocolatier’s. Great sculptures were scattered about the shop floor, encased in branded, glass displays, like priceless antiques at a museum. The Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and a spectacular ship, all sat enshrined in these cases, and were, strangely enough, made up almost entirely of chocolate. I’d go so far as to say that it was work worthy of being labelled as art rather than just a shop of expensive, boutique-brandished chocolate.

If you ever visit Paris, and head to see the Basilica, definitely check out Maison Georges Larnicol for these chocolate relics.

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