A MIDNIGHT STROLL around the Marais. According to recent rumor, apple trees are budding in the Adirondack mountains. But here in the paved-over swamp (’marais’, same root as ‘miasma’) signs of this year’s world-wide non-winter are more subtle. I wear a parka (my ears sting from the wind off the Seine) but boots displayed in the shop windows look oddly useless. Anachronistic. At night these streets so familiar by day change completely. New signs appear or are changed – a patisserie morphs to a hot gay bar with the line of patient, chatting men filling half a block. (Blocks don’t exist, but remain a useful measure.) The electrified night way outshines day. In daytime elderly couples clog the narrow sidewalks, but after midnight no one is over forty, not even the beggars one steps over or around. Telling incidents can be found everywhere, thick as in a Hogarth print. Upper floor apartments mysteriously ablaze, women silhouetted on the narrow balconies. Nearer ground, champagne glasses abandoned in wintry window-boxes shine like delicate new plants.
* IS A PICTURE worth a thousand words? Hyperbole, say we, though a good shot might make 150. But what about the William Hogarth exhibit at the Louvre? Rule #49: never attempt a museum on Sunday. But yesterday, a Sunday, was Sir William’s last day here. Took the secret passage to avoid crowds in front of the pyramid reminiscent of an ant colony on a fresh corpse. The ticket price of euro 9.50 a two-fer: Hogarth appropriately to the left, Rembrandt drawings on the right. In the middle a grandiose cheesy display of gigantic photos by a wannabe contemprary Hogarth. Clever idea, dull execution–fifty words worth at best.
As to the first master of Realism:
Theme: syphilis. The foolish men, their wives, the young girls sold to them, babies. The image of a litlle boy born with the mark, iron rings around his ankles, an attempt at cure of the time. Is there anything new in the plague of our time?
Theme: social reform, power of image journalism. ‘Beer Street’ vs ‘Gin Alley’. The ‘education to cruelty’ series, featuring boys blinding chickens and impaling dogs by the anus… Tarantino, what?
Theme: commissioned yet true portraits (cosseted kids with bulbous noses, sensualist bishops)
Theme: dogs in every print and painting. He portrayed himself with his pug.
Theme: his Art of Despair, culminating in ‘Marriage a la Mode.’
(The Rembrandt drawings: Twinned by curators to the exhibit of his etchings at the Petit Palais. Nearly identical breakdown of subject-matter. Visitors to both exhibits seemed most curious and puzzled over what the master saw in Saskia.)