To be or not to be a painter? That’s the great question of modern times. There’s an itch to be a painter in every man, woman, and child who has achieved our contemporary level of civilization [Mirbeau, Octave, 1892 May 17, Echo de Paris; as cited in The Impressionists at First Hand, Bernard Denvir (Ed.). 1987. London, England: Thames & Hudson. (p. 170)].
Well, I certainly meant to write the epilogue to our trip before now, but the press of professional and academic commitments that piled up while we were gallivanting around the UK and France prohibited such a proactive mode. Better late than never, I suppose. Looking back at Mirbeau’s quote, he initially wrote this passage as a scathing criticism of the Impressionist movement, which he defined as a “social peril” (p. 169) and closed by stating this desire to paint would leave the world in shambles where we all live “in the age of oil paints, and there will be nothing else left to eat, to clothe ourselves with, or to house us. There will only be paintings” (p. 170). Obviously, there is much more to our lives than painting, including working to support a desired lifestyle, but I definitely scratched that “itch” to paint during our trip to Europe and made my best effort to channel Cézanne. Miss Cyd and I had a great time and explored many nooks and crannies across France associated with the Impressionists. Although I did not paint every day, I was able to produce some work that I liked. Next up is a visit to the kind ladies at McBride’s Gallery in Tucson to have them work their framing magic.
To close out this chronicle of our trip, we left Paris on April 23 and returned to the St. Pancras in London on the Eurostar.We enjoyed our ride over from Paris to London on the Eurostar. Traveling by train, especially in first class accommodations, is a very civilized way to get about. Although this is our last train ride in Europe for this trip, we plan to return in a year or two to take a round trip on the Venice Simplon Orient Express from London to Venice as part of our next stay in Tuscany to paint. More about those plans in a future blog, but suffice it to say, we love to travel by train in Europe. It is very convenient that the Eurostar terminus is at the St. Pancras Hotel, so we just had to unload our luggage, take a short stroll across the train station, and check into our hotel room. We had a couple of days to relax before our flights back across the pond, so we went to the Courtauld Gallery. It was very interesting and we saw many of the Impressionist works that we discussed during our trip. It was interesting to see Cézanne’s little plaster model of Cupid that Miss Cyd noticed was missing from his studio in Aix. In her discussion with Christiane (our tour guide) at the studio, we learned the original figure was in the Courtauld. We found the model in the same room as Cezánne’s painting, “Still Life with Plaster Cupid.” That was rather serendipitous. We also saw Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergére,” which is one of Miss Cyd’s favorite paintings, so it was nice to see that work up close.
After this last museum stop, we indulged ourselves with some high tea at the St. Pancras and generally relaxed on our last day in London. The next morning, we had a great breakfast, packed up and called our trusty driver, Jamil, to take us to London Heathrow to catch our flight home. Jamil is a very interesting person who just got a new Mercedes for his chauffeur service. We hire Jamil to take us to Oxford or other destinations whenever we arrive at Heathrow and always have him pick us up at the St. Pancras to return to Heathrow on our way home. His children are both in grad school, so we enjoy hearing about their adventures in academia, as we make our way across the English countryside.
We had some long travel days to get to Philly, then on to Louisville the next day. We really appreciated Cyd’s son, Matt, watching Maggie Doodle for us, so we spent a couple of days unwinding in Lexington with them, before we loaded up the Beetle and headed back across the country to Tucson. Maggie enjoyed her stay with Matt and her new friend, Bug (the poodle next door to Matt’s apartment), but she was very glad to see us. It was great that we did not have to board her for the whole time.
All told, we traveled for about two months, but it was a productive two months and truly allowed me to scratch that itch to paint the bridges over the River Seine. Our sojourn in Aix-en-Provence was excellent and I think I did some of my better work there, although most of it was sketching. We have plenty of photos and ample inspiration for studio work this winter when the blustery winds blow and the temperature dips down into the 70s here in Tucson. I hope everyone enjoyed this blog of our trip. Although writing blog posts turned out to be much more work than I initially expected, it was a great way to chronicle the trip and aligns nicely with all the great photographs that Cyd took, as well as her journal entries along the way. In closing, I’d like to suggest that you “scratch your itch,” whatever that itch may be. After all, one never knows the number of days allotted to each of us here on this earth, so as I mentioned in one of the first blog posts, “It’s Now or Never!” Happy Scratching, Joe and Cyd.