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Pinacotheque is one confusing museum venue. Housed in two buildings, with signs everywhere, and one ticket for two exhibits in two different buildings. I went there because I thought they had a nouveau permanent collection and while I was there, I’d see Tamara de Lempicka. But both shows are exhibits.

Lempicka_Tamara_de-Portrait_de_Mrs._BushWasn’t sure what I’d think about the deco artist Lempicka. I’d seen her work on Pinterest and thought it was pretty unique. I have a painting inspirations board, and I’d clipped a couple of her works to it, never dreaming I’d see an exhibit in Paris. My friend and fellow Francophile Elaine seemed to think it might not be good, so I was a little leery. But, I have to say, I found it fascinating.

First of all, the exhibit is quite extensive. Most of the works are large and luminous. The colors are just gorgeous. And I’ve never seen backgrounds like that before, nor women with such empty eyes. She’s the opposite of Marie Laurencin, whose simple eyes are so full of emotion. Lempicka’s women have mostly dead eyes, though it isn’t quite as obvious from the images I pulled, most of which are the ones I liked best.

There are also some amazing nudes that I’ve never seen before. The nudes are energetic and electrifying. I think they’re, by far, her best work. Very voluptuous and strong and sexy. I immediately wonder if she was a lesbian, since I often find that artists who do figure work often paint more moving pieces of the sex which they are attracted to, and these nudes are so powerful. My instinct is correct; history books say Lempicka was bisexual, although most of the accounts I read sound like she married the men for the money.

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I’m also mesmerized by the numerous pencil studies she did of her paintings. My painting instructor always has us do value studies before we paint, so this aspect of the exhibit was illuminating to me. Tamara could really draw. Some of the studies are better than the final work, I think. They’re really, really simple, but also so expressive and so confident.

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How bad is this painting? What happened?

How bad is this painting? What happened?

The work is really strong from about 1922 until around 1930. And then, her later work is just dreadful. Cloying, insipid, incompetent, ugly. Just BAD. I was astonished.

I’ve never seen such a collapse, such an utter disparity in the quality of the work, especially going forward. She just completely loses it. She was sort of portrait painter of the decadent rich. It’s almost as if the stock market collapsed and took her with it, although evidently she was not effected by it financially. The exhibit had no English subtitles, but I did read up on her afterward.

From there, I head over down the stairs and across the street block, then up the stairs to the Art Nouveau exhibit.

Mucha Job poster, one of many he did for Job.

Mucha Job poster, one of many he did for Job.

Now THIS is the nouveau exhibit I’ve been waiting to see. Lots of objects. Jewelry. Sculptures. And posters, lots of posters! I’ve been so wanting to see the posters, and I’ve been incredulous that Paris could have so few on display. Mucha! Berthon! Grasset! An actual big Mucha Jobs poster. Lots of amazing illustrations in smaller forms, too. My head is about to blow up!

It wasn’t too crowded, either, which always increases my enjoyment. And the people in the rooms were mostly quiet and respectful. Nice. Especially since I like to linger, or sometimes go back and look at things. It was possible here without feeling cramped or like I was annoying someone.

There was this amazing bust by Maurice Bouval that I could have looked at for hours. And it was lovely from the back, too. This photo doesn’t really do it justice, honestly. The patina was gorgeous and it was so soft. The proportions were perfect. Exquisite!

Maurice Bouval sculpture

Maurice Bouval sculpture

And then there’s this haunting pastel painting by an artist I’d never heard of, Louis Weldon Hawkins. Kind of reminds me of Klimt, whom I love. OMG, so gorgeous. Sweet and sexy. How did he ever get the luminosity and the detail?

Louis Weldon Hawkins pastel painting

Louis Weldon Hawkins pastel painting

There’s furniture, glassware and jewelry, too. A bit smaller of an exhibit, ironically, because you’d think there’d be soooo much nouveau material in France. Although, I’ll admit, where nouveau is concerned, it could never be big enough me!

All in all, it isn’t cheap. But it isn’t exorbitant, either. Think it was 20E for Tamara de Lempicka alone, but they let you see both for another 2E. They won’t let you take photos because they want to try to sell you the exhibition catalogs. Still thought it was worth every Euro.

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