Paris’ Orangerie Museum and Claude Monet’s secular temple.

Last week, while I was staying in Paris, I visited the Tuilerie Gardens every morning to practice my Kungfu and Taichi – see Monday’s blog. I have been unable to commit to my White Crane Kungfu club for some time now http://www.whitecranefightingarts.com/ but I try to keep on with practicing my patterns.  I try to find somewhere to do this whenever I am away from home and would now miss it if I couldn’t find anywhere suitable. Not only is it good exercise but these complex Chinese movements also create a feeling of rootedness for the place where they are practised. They also helped me see off a pickpocket on Paris’ Pont Neuf so it is  practical exercise in many ways. For me, a little bit of the Tuileries, a small corner of France, feels like my space. Somewhere where I have established a personal relationship or, put differently, where I feel that I have planted roots. I’ve done this all over Britain and Italy as well as in Greece, China and the United States. In a strangely comforting way, I feel just that little bit more a part of Planet Earth this way. Paris’ Tuilerie Gardens have now joined that list.

On my last day in Paris, I was thinking about Claude Monet (1840-1926), for many people if not for me, the star of 19th Century French art. He’s easy to love but easy too to underestimate and even to take for granted.

Claude Monet 1875 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919)

Monet, famously, connected with his own sense of space and the effects of light on familiar and often observed places. Nowhere more profoundly than in his garden at Giverny where he made his lily pond.

Waterlilies 1921 by Claude Monet (1840-1926)

Just a small distance from my new kungfu practice ground, stands the Orangerie Museum http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/ where two rooms were specifically designed to take two groups of Monet’s final water lily paintings, 

Nymphéas (1921). The painter kept these massive canvases with him until his death but worked with the architects to create an ideal space for his work lit naturally from skylight windows. It was opened in 1927 in the year after his death and remains a deeply moving, almost spiritual space where, if you are lucky you can sit and contemplate these paintings just as Monet intended as if it were some modern, god-free sanctuary.

Sitting there and enjoying at least a tiny sense of what the old painter was attempting, I thought I hadn’t been so far removed from that mental state when I was standing outside lost in my own no matter how clumsy attempts at Chinese martial arts. It was an appropriate way to conclude my visit to Paris.

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