I like small galleries best. Like the Albertina in Vienna, a beautiful building with a small but perfectly formed collection of Manet and Pissaro, of Klimt and Schiele. And like the Musee de l'Orangerie and Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries in Paris. I have loved this museum ever since I was a little kid and my mum gave me the book Linnea in Monet's Garden in preparation for my first trip to Paris. I devoured that book like nothing I had ever read before - it had flat lay pictures of everything she packed in her suitcase, of the souvenirs she bought, of French stamps and the crusts of baguettes and ribbons she had kept from shopping bags!!!! How could you not love that! - and that one of the lasting memories I have of that trip is putting on my Jimboree leggings and turtleneck in lurid turqoise green and heading to Giverny with mum, dad and little brother in tow, walking across that bridge, seeing that row boat, smelling all those flowers. In the book Linnea goes to the Orangerie - I think with her grandfather? Definitely with an old man, and I think that it could only be her grandfather and not like a neighbour or something... My memory is foggy on this - and sits in the viewing room for the Nympheas for a very long time. She loves Monet, just like her grandfather (???), and neither of them can bring themselves to leave first. When we went that trip I just remember thinking how big and peaceful it was. No sound, no noise, just blue and green and waterlilies. It was so much bigger than it seemed in the book. These impressions are probably compounded by the fact that my mum has always said that she would love to have a bath in that room - one of the many hilarious things that she says. Going there again this trip I can appreciate what she means. It is just so serene that all that is missing is a bath and some candles.
The rest of the gallery is kind of ignored in Linnea's narrative, but I've always been fond of the collection. I like the way it's organised - Renoir's still lifes and flower studies rub shoulders with those of Cezzane - and those aubergine and moss green walls are so soothing to the eye. Every picture has a beautiful gilded frame, every image is hung at just the right height, it is easy to move throughout the rooms and enjoy each painting in turn. It sounds silly to like such things about a gallery, but sometimes large, crammed exhibitions intimidate me. What I like is beautiful pictures in a calm, peaceful setting. On this trip I saw a lovely painting that I'd never noticed before, a washed-out 1921 Matisse vignette of two ladies in their boudoir. Something about it just seemed so perfect for me and for this moment in Paris; relaxation, repose, contentment. Later at the gift shop I bought the postcard, so I could have it all to myself. I also bought a postcard of the waterlillies for mum so she could prop it up in the bathroom and at least pretend, for a moment or two.
Musee de l'Orangerie, Jardin des Tuileries, 1er Paris