After arriving in Amsterdam a week before Christmas,

Phylotaxis by Sjoerd Buisman

and quickly settling in our room, we hit the streets in search of Art even though it was late afternoon and already dark.

We began in the Jordaan, formerly a working class neighborhood on the west side of town. There we found sculptures of Johnny Jordaan and the band.

Johnny was a famous local singer who sang Levenslieve, a Dutch variety of the French chanson.  Then we just ambled about.

Giampaolo Amoruso

The Amsterdam Light Festival:
Arborescence by
Mirrorings by Jacques Rival
Water Fun by Angus Muir, New Zealand

The next day we went just outside the southern city limits to Amstelveen to see the Asger Jorn (100th birthday) exhibition at the CoBrA Museum.

All Karel Appel

I have mentioned this group (Co for Copenhagen, Br for Brussels, and A for Amsterdam) in previous posts. The CoBrAs (1948-51) were a rowdy group. No rules for them, but they were also reacting to the horrors of WW2 and in doing so reverted to their child-like innocence which is evident in the art of several of the artists. Jorn. What can I say? His art has so much expression. Not always intense, but most of the time.

Carne du tendre by Asger Jorn, 1969
Melmoth II by Asger Jorn, 1955

There was a nice selection of Karel Appel, Egil Jacobsen, Constant, Corneille, and other CoBrA founders.

Nocturnal Feast by Corneille, 1950
Fauna by Constant, 1949
Rite Sterrenson en schip by Carl-Henning Pedersen, 1951

Among the CoBrAs we found an Ossip Zadkine.

Kneeling Nude by Ossip Zadkine, 1920
The first of more to come. From there we walked though Amsteelven and found the Museum Jan van der Togt. An unprepossessing entrance led to large galleries inside. Much of the art was glass by many artists.

 Passion Assortment by Peter Anton, 2014
 by Menno Jonker, 2007

But there was also a variety of other pieces, including several by the museum director (Jan Verschoor), who had an adjoining apartment. So adjoining that we could see sculptures inside his space on the other side of the courtyard.

In the courtyard were small sculptures, especially kinetic. We found many more kinetic pieces on the roof, visible from the second floor galleries.

And another Zadkine.

Three Graces by Ossip Zadkine

We took the No. 5 tram back into town and went to the Stedelijk Museum. This is the museum of modern and contemporary art, which was closed for restoration on previous visits. We could see why. They have constructed an enormous building enveloping the old one. There were rooms filled with art we liked, and a couple of exhibits we didn’t care for.

One of the latter was the Marlene Dumas (disturbing).

Another was called Bad Thoughts. And it pretty much was, except they did have this Keith Haring.

Untitled by Keith Haring and La Rock, 1987

CoBrA was well represented (their first show there was in 1951), with its own room. For the 1953 show, Karel Appel painted on one wall and also did one entire foyer (including the ceiling). The people were outraged.

Barricade by Constant, 1949
 Orange Object II by Egill Jacobsen, 1943
Man and Animals by Karel Appel, 1949

There were lots of Marcel Duchamp, a couple of Claes Oldenburgs, some Calders, and even a Sol LeWitt (somebody must have thought he was French).

Large Torso by Hans (Jan) Arp, 1957
Self-Portrait with Seven Fingers by Marc Chagall, 1912-13
Clown's Paint by Jean Dubuffet, 1956
Wall Drawing #1084 by Sol LeWitt, 2003 specifically for this gallery
There were several Mondrians, and a sprinkling of other modern artists including, an Ossip Zadkine.

The Deer by Ossip Zadkine, 1923
The family of Van Gogh donated this painting to the museum in appreciation for the Stedelijk sheltering the collection during the war.

Augustine Roulen (La Berceuse) by Van Gogh, 1889
Before taking the train to Paris the next day, we had one more mission. It appears that someone has placed a series of mysterious sculptures around the city beginning in 1989, but no one knows who did it. Some speculate that it is Queen Beatrix, who is a sculptor and certainly has the connections to have them installed without anyone knowing.

Queen Beatrix

We got a one-hour tram ticket and headed off to find as many as we could.

Began back in the Jordaan, which we only grazed the edge of the other night. This is a real residential neighborhood. Still with canals and tons of charm, but not for tourists. We walked along small canals where some houses backed up to little gardens and a space for their boat.

We found the next piece on the side of a building: The Accordion Man.

Back on another tram, we found the next piece up in a tree across from the Marriott.

A long walk to the opera house.

It was fun walking around Amsterdam on a sunny day. Not sure we’ve ever done that before. The next sculptures were in the Red Light District. If it is the Queen doing this, she sure has a sense of humor.

The train to Paris was a bullet train and was packed. And late, but we had little difficulty getting from the Gare du Nord via Métro to our apartment in the 20th arrondissement.

It was the Saturday before Christmas, so decided to avoid museums and began our Parisian adventure outside the city.

Looming in the distance off to the northwest of the center, like the Emerald City, is La Defense. A modern skyline of an office park city. There we found la Musée a Ciel Ouvert, open sky museum. The Great Arch overlooks the grand plaza, which now featured the biggest Christmas market in Paris. It lines up, in the distance, with the Arc de Triomphe.

We obtained a couple of maps indicating the public art (sculptures and murals), but even so, did not find everything. And found a few that weren’t on the maps. From well-known sculptors like:

The Red Spider by Alexander Calder, 1976
The Figures by Joan Miro, 1976
To a variety of figurative and abstract pieces; large and small.

Le Pouce by Cesar, 1994
Doubles Lignes Indeterminees by Venet, 1988
 Takis Garden - East by Takis, 1990
There was supposed to be something made of Swarovski crystals, but did not locate it in the shopping mall, where a few pieces of public art were to be found. Stopped at the Christmas market for a glass of vin chaud and a hearty bowl of soup with a piece of baguette. Then off to find more Art.


The next day we found racing at the Hippodrome Vincennes on the east side of town. Though its roots go to 1863, and rebuilt in 1879 after being destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War, it is now a modern facility. Not the kind we like very much. But it was Christmas, and so family day with races featuring young riders:

Plus Santa and lots for kids to do. Even if it was cold.

In the south of Paris (14th arr.) is the Montparnasse Cemetery, second only in size to Pere Lachaise, but every bit its equal in terms of sculpture and decorations Though we searched, we could not find the grave of Chaim Soutine, but were more successful with others. There was the grave of Tatiana Rachewskaia, a Russian anarchist youth who commit suicide in 1910 after an unhappy love affair. Her parents commissioned Constantin Brâncuşi to carve her headstone, and he was moved to create this statue of two lovers, The Kiss:

Brâncuşi himself didn’t get such a lovely grave.

There were several other sculptors buried there, including Ossip Zadkine. He too, did not get a marker of any note. The lettering on the stone has all but worn away.

Some of the less well-known sculptors have their work adorning their graves.

 Leopold Kretz, sculptor

Il fait son choix d'anchois et dîne d'une sardine. - Berdal
Gerard Barthelemy
Andre Almo del Debbio, sculptor

Niki de Saint-Phalle, whose work we will see again, did two sculptures there for friends:

There were lots of Jewish graves (all with piles of rocks). But there were also Asians, Iranians, and even a president of Mexico. Lots of writers, philosophers (Bordelaire, Sartre), painters (Soutine, Latour), sculptors (Zadkine, Henri Laurens, Houdon, Brancusi), and entertainers of all kinds. There were cartoonists, printers, musicians (Saint-Saëns, Rampal, Franck) as well as generals and political figures (Dreyfus). We didn’t look for the famous like Jean-Paul Sartre & Simone de Beauvoir (same grave), Charles Baudelaire, Guy de Maupassant, Samuel Beckett, Susan Sontag, and Jean Seberg, but found someone we hadn’t heard of. Serge Gainsbourg, a disciple of Baudelaire, wrote “Lilac Poinconneur,” which others obviously had read:

We did find the grave of Man Ray and his wife Juliett:


Then outside the cemetery walls, we found this sculpture by Zadkine:

 La Naissance des Formes by Ossip Zadkine, 1958

And nearby was this piece by Rodin, located in the Place Picasso, as he had an apartment nearby:

While in Montparnasse, we also visited a few of the former hangouts of the artists, La Rondelle and Le Dome, which are now bustling bistros, where everyone paid their bills with euros instead of drawings and paintings, as in the past.


Le Dome is where American artist Fred Dana Marsh (click here to learn more) lived from 1896 to 1900 with his wife Alice; where they had three boys, before returning to the US (but not before placing a painting in the 1898 Salon).

Down this lovely alleyway, we found the tiny Musée du Montparnasse.

Not too much of interest here, but these “saints” by Coco Fronsac were fun.

Just a short walk to the Luxembourg Gardens neighborhood where we found the Musée de Antoine Bourdelle was closed for restoration. But now that I knew the name, we found his works all over town.

Just a few more steps to the Musée Ossip Zadkine. He settled in Paris in 1909, and this was where he lived and worked (while in Paris) until his death.

Girouette by Ossip Zadkine, 1965
La Foret Humaine by Ossip Zadkine, 1957-58
 Project pour le monument aux freres van gogh by Ossip Zadkine, 1963

We began the day at the Pompidou Centre. Adjoining the Centre was the Igor Stravinsky Fountain, created in 1983 featuring the work of Niki de Saint-Phalle and her husband, Jean Tinguely. Sixteen sculptures inspired by Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and other of his works.

"Niki de Saint-Phallle was very beautiful, Madame Claude Pompidou was very dignified, the fountain is droll and gay, and the children laughed, it was a beautiful opening."
 (Le Matin, March 17, 1983). 

And other artistic offerings:

Horizontal by Alexander Calder, 1974

Inside the Pompidou, we began with an exhibit on the work of Frank Gehry. We were surprised by how many wild projects he has done around the world for public and private projects. Apparently the Bilbao museum skyrocketed his long career.


There was a one-room installation piece done by Latifa Echakhch who was the 2013 winner of the Prix Marcel Duchamp. Suspended clouds and behind each cloud were various items. It is called L’Air du Temps.

Then, on the other side of the building, there was an exhibit of Marcel Duchamp.

Nu descendant un escalier, no 2 by Marcel Duchamp, 1912
Roue de bicyclette by Marcel Duchamp, 1913

This included lots of work by brother Jacques Villon and youngest brother Raymond Duchamp-Villon. And many more by associates and others, such as Kandinsky, Brancusi, Braque, Man Ray, Francis Picabia, Georgio De Chirico, and Robert Delaunay.

Even a Cranach.

Venus by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1532


And an exhibit of work by Jeff Koons that featured his mylar balloon animals,

some strangely realistic sculptures,

and a display of pornographic images starring himself and his wife, the famous porn star (and politician) Cicciolina (Ilona Staller). I’ll omit those, but this seems ok:

On the 4th & 5th floors is the Modern Art Museum portion of the Centre. However, while the 5th is mostly Modern, the 4th is mostly Contemporary. There was an “American” room which featured one pic by Georgia O’Keefe, but the rest were by artists whom I had never heard of before. And not very good really. The work of Lyonel Feininger was especially confusing. Was he a naïve artist?

Liebespaar by Lyonel Feininger, 1916
Or faking it?

Am Strande by Lyonel Feininger, 1913
Marine by Lyonel Feininger, 1924
Here are a few more pieces and stories:

L'Adoration du veau by Francis Picabia, 1941-42
La Lecture by Fernand Leger, 1924
Ubu Imperator by Max Ernst, 1923
Un tableau tre heureux by Dorothea Tanning, 1947
Max Ernst was friends with Hans Arp since 1914, participated in a  ménage-à-trois with novelist Paul Éluard and his wife Gala in 1921, partnered with Joan Miró to design sets for Diaghilev in 1926, and married Peggy Guggenheim in 1942.  Soon after that he met Dorothea Tanning in NYC, divorced PG and married Tanning in a double ceremony at Hollywood with Man Ray and Juliett Browner. The new couple lived in Sedona and entertained many of the Surrealists including Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, and André Breton, as well as other luminaries such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Balanchine, and Dylan Thomas.  They were together until Max's death in 1976. 

Arbre Ruge by Séraphine de Senlis, 1928-30
Séraphine de Senlis, a completely self-taught painter, was working as a housekeeper when she was discovered by Wilhelm Uhde in 1912.  Uhde had previously discovered and promoted the work of Henri Rousseau, and opened a gallery in 1908 where he exhibited work by Braque, Metzinger, Derain, Dufy,  Jules Pascin, and Pablo Picasso. He married Sonia Terk in 1908, as a matter of convenience, as she soon wed Robert Delaunay, a good friend of Uhde's.

Lastly, we went to the Robert Delaunay exhibit. A terrific display of all of his work, including the designs he did for buildings at the 1937 World’s Fair.

self-portrait by Robert DeLaunay
La Ville de Paris by Robert DeLaunay, 1910-12
La Tour Eiffel by Robert DeLaunay, 1926
Decors du film Le P'tit Parigot de Rene Le Somptier by Robert & Sonia DeLaunay, 1926
Rythme, Joie de vivrre by Sonia DeLaunay, 1930
Rythme no. 1 by Robert DeLaunay, 1938

You must check your skateboards!
After resting on Christmas Day, we went to the Bois de Boulogne and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the brand-new contemporary art museum designed by Frank Gehry.

After a long wait in line we went in to try to navigate this enormous glass covered museum. It was a challenge. We found a small display of pieces by Giocometti.

Grande Femme II by Alberto Giacometi, 1960

There were some awful Ellsworth Kellys and little else of interest. Especially the featured exhibition by Olaf Erickson.


Took the Métro downtown to Hotel de Ville, where they had an exhibition of photos called Magnum Paris presented by Magnum Photos, a photographers cooperative. The exhibit began with four photographers: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, George Roger, and David “Chim” Seymour, four of the founders of Magnum Photos. This led to displays by many more.

 Lion by August Cain (1892) guarding the entrance to the exhibition.

I especially enjoyed those by Capa, a daring photojournalist. His photos not only had the sharp contrast that I like, he was shooting French Resistance fighters as well as a variety of scenes of the liberation of Paris.


His favorite quote “If your picture isn’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Another is “It’s not enough to have talent. You also have to be Hungarian.” He was killed, at age 40, by a landmine in the first Indochine war.

We walked east on rue de Rivoli.

Yule Logs

Through the Place de Voges.

And finally to Place de la Bastille and the Opera, where we found that there were only two tickets available for next Tuesday’s performance of La Bohème. They were not together and cost 200 euros each. I cannot imagine any listening experience worthy of that kind of investment.

Genie de la Liberte by Auguste Dumont

Time for a daytrip, so we took the #9 direct to Gare St. Lazare. In the Métro tunnel, we found this interesting piece by Canadien Geneviève Cadieux called La Voix lactee (the Milky Way).

Along the wall was the inscription (in French): "Long before the images or the colors, The Source of the song imagined a closed mouth as a captive chimera."

We caught the train to Pontoise (northwest), then transferred to the train for Auvers-sur-Oise; the town where Vincent Van Gogh spent his last 70 days before he died. He is buried there with his brother Theo, who died less than a year later. The big advantage in coming in the winter is that there are no other tourists roaming the streets, while there are likely thousands when it is warmer. Problem is that the inn where VVG lived, which is also a museum, along with the tourism office (“closed we while restructuring ourselves”) and other sights, such as the Daubigny Museum were closed. We still had the better deal even though it was raining. At first we just wandered looking at the houses and whathaveyou. Then we found the sign to the cemetery.

There was a spot right next to the cemetery where VVG did a painting. There are reproductions of his paintings at the sites where he painted them.

Landscape at Auvers in the Rain by Vincent van Gogh

Inside the cemetery we found the graves of VVG and his younger brother Theo. It was an emotional moment, standing there looking at the two simple markers. Surrounded by the ivy and the stalks of several dead sunflowers. Perhaps this is the place to record a little off those last days. On the evening of the 27th July 1890, VVG went at dusk into the fields and allegedly shot himself. With all his strength he managed to drag himself back to the inn where he died two days later in the arms of his brother, who had hurried to Auvers. Six months later, Theo, already weakened by a disease, died of grief in The Netherlands. In April 1914 his body was exhumed at his widow Johanna's request so that he could rest beside Vincent in Auvers. Johanna requested that a sprig of ivy from Dr. Gachet's garden be planted among the grave stones. That same ivy carpets Vincent and Theo's grave site to this day. A very powerful place, we were fortunate to be alone there... thinking about their relationship and the hard life of Vincent Van Gogh.

Also in this cemetery was the grave of CoBrA painter Corneille.

Opposite the cemetery is a dirt track which leads to the field where Vincent painted his last painting of crows in a wheatfield. It isn’t wheat anymore. But it’s still a field and we were even more alone here. Tried to visualize the wheat and the crows. Feel the despair.

Wheatfield with crows

From this spot there was a narrow muddy path, down low between two fields, heading back into town. As we were walking on it, I realized that VVG had to have walked this same path from the field, down past the church he painted and into town. A very narrow track, I know that I walked in his footsteps. Very moving.

The Church at Auvers

In addition to the church, he painted city hall, and other scenes:

Auvers Steps
Auvers City Hall

And there was art there besides that of VVG. In 1961, Ossip Zadkine was commissioned to create a statue of VVG.

There was also a statue of a winetaster:

Tribute to Philippe Auversois Lebasque by Caroline Jeannesson and Estel, 2002
And Saint Vincent:

 St. Vincent by Daniel Petitgenet, 2013

Back at the train station, we found the studio of François Laval; a tiny room in the corner of the station. He was working on a painting surrounded by stacks of other paintings, which he stopped to show us.

There were original paintings of his own, but his bread and butter is painting in the style of VVG and other artists who came to paint in Auvers-sur-Oise: Monet, Cezanne, Vermeer, and more. Not exact copies, he even added personal, often humorous touches. When he showed one painting that was a “copy” of VVG’s, he said that the Orsay only has a print of this. “In Auvers-sur-Oise, we have an original." Or the one he did of VVG, which VVG had done of a Millet, he was proud to point out that it was an interpretation of Millet by VVG, which is then interpreted by himself. He explained that during the good weather he would set up his paintings outside, along the train tracks and in the station itself. In addition, he has painted over a couple buildings as well as the walls and ceiling of the tunnel that goes under the railroad tracks.

It was extra cold the morning when we went to look at Montmartre Cemetery, third largest and home to several celebrities and some interesting sculpture. Nice but no comparison to Montparnasse. There were lots of mausoleums and the place had a much drearier feel than Montparnasse or Père Lachaise. There is even an iron roadway overhead, bisecting the graveyard.

We started with the grave of Nadia Boulanger, who was not only the first woman to conduct a major symphony, she was also teacher to a stunning number of students, including musical luminaries such as Aaron Copeland, Daniel Barenboim, and Philip Glass, but also accordionist Astor Piazzolla.

We also found the graves of: Léon Foucault, Adolphe Sax, Jacques Offenbach, Edgar Degas, Hector Berlioz, Francis Picabia.

The owner of this monument has not yet passed.  His name is Sine (Maurice Sinet) and was a cartoonist with Charlie Hebdo until he lampooned the son of former president Sarkozy who converted to Judaism in order to marry the daughter of Darcy stores.  The inscription says "Dying?  Rather be dead!"

Jacque Offenbach
Vaslav Nijinsky

And, of course, there were others I had to shoot.

Ludmila Tcherina by Ludmila Tcherina
Bauchet by Richard

But it was cold, so we didn’t dawdle and headed over to the heart of Montmartre. We found crowds filling the streets and could only imagine what it would be like in the summer. Streets and sidewalks packed tight with tourists while cars and buses continually pushed their way through the crowds.   But some interesting Art to see along the way.

Our next stop was the Musée de Montmartre, which supposedly had a cache of Art by famous artists. They may have overstated that. The building is one that was painted by Renoir and by Suzanne Valadon, because they lived right there.

 Jardin de la rue Cortot by Suzanne Valadon, 1928
Studio of Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo

The studio at 12 rue Cortot was first used by Emil Bernard from 1906 to 1909, before being occupied by Valadon and her son Maurice Utrillo.

The name of the exhibition was Spirit of Montmartre and Modern Art, 1875-1910 which allowed them to show a great many posters for the area clubs, and other decorations, but there was not very much modern art. Lots of drawings by Suzanne were nice. We enjoyed paintings and posters by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, Maurice Neumont, Henri Rivière, František Kupka, and one by Louis Icart.

Le Maquis by Frantisek Kupka, 1897
Marie au tub s'epongeant by Suzanne Valadon, 1908
L'Apotheose de chats by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen, 1884
Le theatre du chat  noir by Maurice Neumont, 1895
 La Messe Noire for the shadow play Elsewhere! by Henri Rivière, 1891
by Henri Rivière
French CanCan by Louis Icart

The nearby house where Maurice Neumont died in 1930, in Place du Calvaire, later became the home of famous Deco artist Louis Icart, who died in 1950.

We eventually found the rue Ravigne and Le Bateau-Lavoir, home of Pablo Picasso (1904-12, Fernande moved out in 1909), Max Jacob, Juan Gris, Kees Van Dongen and writer/poet Andre Salmon, and a list thirty-three artist and writers that lived there around the turn of the century.

This was the beginning of our pilgrimage from the studio of Pablo Picasso to the home of Gertrude Stein. In 1908, PP offered to paint Gerdie, and she decided she would walk up the hill to the studio for each of the over 90 reported sittings he required.

We decided to follow her return trip so we could go downhill. Down the Butte to Blvd. Clinchy where, in 1912, PP moved his studio (before moving to Blvd. Raspail near Montparnasse in 1915.  We looked and wandered. Didn’t always stay on the most direct roads as there were so many beautiful old storefronts and windows to look at. Cut through the Passage Panorama, where we found a bride and groom looking at postcards.

There was a big crowd at the Pyramide:

We crossed the Seine on the Pont du Carrousel and found our way through the many upscale shops and side streets on the Left Bank as we sought 47 rue de Fleurus, home of Gertrude Stein.

Stein Apartment