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kottke.org posts about Paris

“How Picasso Bled the Women in His Life for Art”

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 10, 2017

Picasso Maya

From Cody Delistraty in the Paris Review, a timely article on Pablo Picasso, his artwork, and how he treated the women in his life (spoiler alert: quite poorly).

Sixteen years ago, Marina Picasso, one of Pablo Picasso’s granddaughters, became the first family member to go public about how much her family had suffered under the artist’s narcissism. “No one in my family ever managed to escape from the stranglehold of this genius,” she wrote in her memoir, Picasso: My Grandfather. “He needed blood to sign each of his paintings: my father’s blood, my brother’s, my mother’s, my grandmother’s, and mine. He needed the blood of those who loved him.”

After Jacqueline Roque, Picasso’s second wife, barred much of the family from the artist’s funeral, the family fell fully to pieces: Pablito, Picasso’s grandson, drank a bottle of bleach and died; Paulo, Picasso’s son, died of deadly alcoholism born of depression. Marie-Therese Walter, Picasso’s young lover between his first wife, Olga Khokhlova, and his next mistress, Dora Maar, later hanged herself; even Roque eventually fatally shot herself.”Women are machines for suffering,” Picasso told Francoise Gilot, his mistress after Maar. After they embarked on their affair when he was sixty-one and she was twenty-one, he warned Gilot of his feelings once more: “For me there are only two kinds of women: goddesses and doormats.”

At the same time, his granddaughter has curated a show in Paris of Picasso’s art celebrating his relationship with his daughter Maya.

Diana Widmaier-Picasso, who is the daughter of Maya Widmaier-Picasso and Pierre Widmaier, a shipping magnate, and the granddaughter of Picasso and Marie-Therese, curated the exhibition. She is well aware of the usual misanthropic, misogynistic characterizations of Picasso. “He’s a man of metamorphoses,” she tells me carefully in Paris, a few days before the vernissage of her exhibition. “A complex person to grasp.”

When I was in Paris recently, I went to the Picasso Museum, where one of the exhibitions showcased his art from 1932, the artist’s “année érotique”. The Guardian described the show thusly:

Achim Borchardt-Hume, the gallery’s director of exhibitions and co-curator of the 2018 show, said the challenge facing curators was: “How can you get close to Picasso as an artist and a person? How can you get beyond the myth?”

Their answer was to focus on one period in Picasso’s long life. They chose 1932, a time called Picasso’s “year of wonders”.

It was a year when he cemented his superstar status as the world’s most influential living artist, producing some of his greatest works of art and staging his first retrospective, which he curated. It was also a year when his passion for Walter almost boiled over.

Picasso was 45 when, in 1927, he spotted the 17-year-old Walter as she exited a Paris Metro station. He approached her, grabbed her arm and declared: “I’m Picasso! You and I are going to do great things together.”

At this point, the quality of the art is undeniable but so too is Picasso’s treatment of women: he beat them, verbally and emotionally abused them, cheated endlessly on his wives, and entered into at least one sexual relationship with a girl under the age of consent (though with the permission of her parents it seems). He chewed women up for his art and then left them to die, literally. A small aspect of all of the allegations that have come out recently (Weinstein, Spacey, Louis CK, Roy Moore, Matthew Weiner, Charlie Sheen, Jeffrey Tambor, Dustin Hoffman, Leon Wieseltier, and — never forget! — fucking Trump) is the collective realization (mostly on the part of men…women have been aware) that not only has massive chunks of our culture been created by specific men who abuse women but also that so-called “Western culture” in its entirety has been marked and in many ways defined by systemic and institutionalized misogyny that has chewed up women for art and discarded them en masse. Never mind your fave is problematic…the whole damn culture is problematic. This aspect of the creation of culture has been largely written out of history, but going forward, it’s going to be important to write it back in.

My recent media diet, special French edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2017

Quick reviews of some things I’ve read, seen, heard, and experienced in the past two weeks or so. I recently took a trip to France to visit friends and log some time in one of my favorite places on Earth, so this particular media diet is heavy on Parisian museums and food. If you take nothing else away from this post, avoid The Louvre and watch The Handmaid’s Tale at the earliest opportunity.

Dial M for Murder. This Hitchcock film, with its relatively low stakes and filmed mostly in one room, is more suspenseful and thrilling than any of the “the world/galaxy/universe is in peril” movies out today. (A-)

Musée des Arts et Métiers. Before ~1950, you could look at a machine and pretty much know what it did and how it worked. After the invention of the digital computer, everything is an inscrutable black box. (A)

Manon des Sources. This movie feels much older than it is. (B+)

Marconi. The chef from my favorite NYC restaurant recently opened this place in Montreal. Best meal I had during my trip (Paris included). (A)

The Big Sick. It may have been a little predictable, but I really liked this movie. Lots of heart. (B+)

Le Chateaubriand. The skate tartar and a dessert with a smoked cream were the highlights, but the whole experience was top-notch and chill. (A-)

Candelaria. You will never feel cooler in Paris than having an excellent cocktail in a bar behind a hidden door in the back of a taqueria. (A-)

Musée Picasso. Not much else to say about Picasso at this point, is there? That creep can roll, man. (A-)

Women in Physics. My daughter is pretty interested in science and scientists (she’s a particular fan of Marie Curie), so books that highlight women scientists can always be found around our house. (B)

Café de Flore. You will never feel cooler in Paris than sitting outside at Café de Flore at night, reading a book, and drinking a Negroni as Hemingway might have done in the 20s. (Tho Hemingway probably didn’t have a Kindle.) (A-)

Stacked. I recently rediscovered this hour-long mix by Royal Sapien. The two-ish minutes starting at 32:00 are sublime IMO. (A-)

The Devil in the White City. A gripping tale of architecture and serial killing. Chicago 1893 is definitely one of my hypothetical time travel destinations. (A)

Sainte-Chapelle. My favorite church in Paris. Literally jaw-dropping, worth the €10 entry fee. (A)

Rough Night. I will watch anything with Kate McKinnon in it. But… (B-)

Balanchine / Teshigawara / Bausch. An amazing building. (I got to go backstage!) The third act of this ballet was flat-out amazing. (B+)

The Louvre. The best-known works are underwhelming and the rest of this massive museum is overwhelming. The massive crowds, constant photo-taking, and selfies make it difficult to actually look at the art. Should have skipped it. (C)

100 Pounds of Popcorn. Forgettable kids book. (C-)

Kubo and the Two Strings. A fun thing to do is tell someone halfway through that it’s stop motion animated. (A-)

Musée d’Orsay. The building and the art it contains elevate each other. Probably the best big museum in Paris. (A-)

The Handmaid’s Tale. This is both a not-implausible future of the United States and a metaphor for how many women and LGBT+ folks feel about how our society treats them. Excellent, a must-watch. (A)

Musée de l’Orangerie. Two rooms of huge Monet Waterlilies? Yes, please. (A-)

Brasserie Lipp. The steak frites was so-so, but the people watching from my table near the entrance was fascinating. You’ll never feel cooler…etc. etc. (B+)

Monograph by Chris Ware. This thing is *huge* (like it weighs almost 9 pounds) and beautiful. (A-)

D3 Traveller. I bought this on sale, but even so it was an epic splurge for me. Now that I’ve been on 4-5 trips with it, I can say I love love love this bag. Will likely last a lifetime. (A)

Blade Runner 2049. Rewatch, this time on a smaller screen. Despite its flaws, I definitely like this more than the original. (A-)

Marching band plays Daft Punk at Bastille Day parade

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2017

At the Bastille Day parade in Paris, with Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron looking on, a marching band played a medley of hits from Daft Punk. Macron gets it pretty quickly while Trump looks confidently clueless as usual.

Racing the subway between stops on foot

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2017

In 2012, Francois De La Taille posted a video of himself racing a Paris Metro train from one station to the next, on foot. He exited the train, dashed out of the station, sprinted down the street (after pausing for a bus crossing the road), ran into the next station (after falling on the stairs), and hopped back onto the same train he’d just gotten off of.

Two years later, James Heptonstall did the same thing on the London Tube and, after a slow start, it went viral. Soon, people from all over the world were racing their hometown subway trains: Taiwan, Stockholm, Hong Kong, etc. If you’re wondering whether such a thing would be possible in NYC, the answer is yes, even if you pick the wrong door to start with:

(via @ftrain)

America’s exceptional exclusionism

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 17, 2015

There is much to say about the recent events in Syria, Beirut, and Paris, but, closer to home the news, that more than half of the governors of US states say they would refuse to help Syrian refugees seems like a new low in good old fashioned American xenophobia and stupidity.

By late Monday, states refusing Syrian refugees included Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.

As @drwave put it, “what a bunch of assholes”. In linking to this piece, The Islamic State wants you to hate refugees, Dave Pell from NextDraft notes:

From everything I’ve read, taking a strong anti-refugee position is closer to collaborating with ISIS than standing up to it.

Having your racist aunt call for closing our doors to innocent people fleeing terrorism and death on her Facebook page is one thing, but to see dozens of elected officials and Presidential candidates calling openly and proudly for it, I just don’t know what to say. I was going to say that it’s unprecedented, but this sort of thing is deeply embedded into the fabric of America, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to our treatment of Native Americans to the Japanese internment camps during WWII. Have we learned nothing?

1940 Nazi tourist map of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 04, 2015

Nazi Tourist Map Paris

In 1940, Germany published a tourist map of occupied Paris intended for use by German soldiers on leave.

Sham Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   May 05, 2014

Sham Paris

A fake Paris was partially constructed near the real Paris at the end of World War I in the hopes of confusing German planes who were looking to bomb the City of Lights.

The story of Sham Paris may have been “broken” in The Illustrated London News of 6 November 1920 in a remarkably titled photo essay, “A False Paris Outside Paris — a ‘City’ Created to be Bombed”. There were to be sham streets lined with electric lights, sham rail stations, sham industry, open to a sham population waiting to be bombed by real Germans. It is a perverse city, filled with the waiting-to-be-murdered in a civilian target.

Stand clear of the diving boards, please

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 17, 2014

I love this rendering of an abandoned Paris Metro station reimagined as a swimming pool:

Paris Metro Pool

This and several other renderings were created by OXO Associates for Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet’s Paris mayoral race. The others imagine subway stations turned into theaters, nightclubs, and underground parks.

If the New Yorker were set in Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2013

Covers for The Parisianer, an imaginary version of the New Yorker set in Paris.

Parisianer

Beautiful horizon rainbow in Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 27, 2013

Paris even does rainbows better than the rest of the world. This is a photo of a horizon rainbow taken over the Parisian skyline last week by Bertrand Kulik.

Paris Rainbow

What the heck is going on there? Astronomy Picture of the Day explains:

Why is this horizon so colorful? Because, opposite the Sun, it is raining. What is pictured above is actually just a common rainbow. It’s uncommon appearance is caused by the Sun being unusually high in the sky during the rainbow’s creation. Since every rainbow’s center must be exactly opposite the Sun, a high Sun reflecting off of a distant rain will produce a low rainbow where only the very top is visible — because the rest of the rainbow is below the horizon.

(via @DavidGrann)

1910s Paris color photos redone in contemporary Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 25, 2013

In past few months, I linked to two collections of color photos of Paris taken in the 1910s and 1920s under the direction of Albert Kahn.

Albert Kahn Paris

Recently Rue89 sent photographer Audrey Cerdan to recapture some of those old scenes in modern day Paris and knocked up an interface so that you can slide back and forth between the old and current photos. In some of the pairs of photos, pharmacies, tabacs, and boulangeries are in the same places. (thx, christophe)

A bunch of early color photos of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 25, 2013

In December, I linked to a small collection of color photos of Paris taken in the 1910s and 1920s. Here’s a much more extensive collection of Parisian color photography. Some of my favorites:

Paris Color Photos 01

Paris Color Photos 02

Paris Color Photos 03

The middle photo is of the flower market at Les Halles in 1914, which would be quite a thing to have experienced. (thx, julien)

Color photography of Paris from 1914

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 04, 2012

Albert Kahn sent photographers all over the world in the early 1900s and amassed over 72,000 color photos in the process. Here are a few shots of his from Paris on the eve of World War I.

Albert Kahn Paris

That photo is of the entrance to the Passage du Caire at the corner of Rue d’Alexandrie and Rue Sainte-Foy in the 2nd arrondissement. Here’s what it looks like today:

Passage Du Caire

The fall and rise of the baguette

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 05, 2012

The baguette is one of the foods most commonly associated with France, so it’s surprising that for a long time, the French baguette was uncommonly bad. Samuel Fromartz travelled to Paris to apprentice with a baker and discovered how the baguette got its groove back.

“For years I had watched the sensorial quality of French bread palpably deteriorate,” he told me. The decline first set in, he said, when bakers switched from levain to commercial yeast in order to shorten the bread-making process. Yeast could work as an acceptable substitute for levain, but instead of relying on minute amounts of yeast and letting the dough ferment over 24 hours- as Delmontel does with his baguettes-bakers added more yeast and cut the rise period to as little as one hour, “suppressing the first fermentation that is the source of all taste,” Kaplan said.

The situation worsened in the 1950s, when bakers started using intensive kneading machines that satisfied consumer desire for an ever-whiter crumb. They started sprinkling in additives such as vitamin C to spike fermentation, and heaps of salt to mask the absence of flavor. In short, while pursuing the promises of modernity-efficiency, speed, and whiter bread-what French bakers lost was the one indispensable ingredient: time.

“For me, bread was a crucial dimension of what the French proudly call their ‘cultural exception,’” or national identity, said Kaplan. “They did not seem to be aware that they were putting it in grave peril.” By the 1980s, the French ate less and less bread. Boulangeries folded; those that remained competed with supermarkets, which baked frozen baguettes and sold them as loss leaders.

Food trucks in Paris and they going gorillas

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 04, 2012

The food truck trend has invaded Paris, where young people use the phrase “très Brooklyn” to denote food that combines “informality, creativity and quality”.

On a bright morning last month at the Marché St.-Honoré, a weekly market in an elegant residential section of Paris, several sleekly dressed women struggled to lift the thick burgers to their mouths gracefully. (In French restaurants, and sometimes even fast-food joints, burgers are eaten with utensils, not hands.) A few brave souls were trying to eat tacos with a knife and fork. “C’est pas trop épicé,” said one, encouraging a tentative friend — “It’s not too spicy,” high praise from the chile-fearing French.

Street food itself isn’t new to France. At outdoor markets like this one, there is often a truck selling snacks like pizza, crepes or spicy Moroccan merguez sausages, cooked on griddles and stuffed into baguettes.

But the idea of street food made by chefs, using restaurant-grade ingredients, technique and technology, is very new indeed.

Paris, USA

posted by Jason Kottke   May 09, 2012

Having recently published a book about Paris, France, Rosecrans Baldwin visited a number of towns named Paris around the US to see how Americans perceive the French here in 2012. Here’s part one of his report.

The survey has eight questions ranging from general opinions to particular trivia. For example, “Whose side was France on during the American Revolutionary War?”

Sixty-six percent of respondents get it right: our side. Twenty percent are wrong. Incorrect answers include “the British,” “England,” “the opposite side,” and, oddly, “the French.” Other responses: “History was not my class in school — I hate it,” and “I am averse.” My favorite comes from a gas station attendant in Lexington, Ky., who writes: “I refuse to answer the rest of this survey. I love the French language. I have had many French friends.”

One guy in a parking lot outside a Dallas strip club says, “This has got to be a trick question.” And there’s another person, at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, who will ask me, “You mean our American Revolutionary War?” Which appears to be a general concern — of the 55 people, at least 10 ask me to which American Revolution I am referring. Two people say, “But we didn’t have a revolution.”

The Morning News is serializing the other parts of this story all this month but you can get the whole thing right now on the Kindle.

An American in Paris 2.0

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 19, 2012

GQ has an excerpt of Rosecrans Baldwin’s new book about the eighteen months he and his wife spent in Paris.

Bruno sat under a machine shaped like a palm tree that sucked up smoke. He lit a cigarette, unpopped a shirt button nonchalantly, ordered Sancerre, and began talking over my head. After fifteen minutes, I understood that he’d worked on the infant-nutrition project for eleven months, ever since he’d joined the agency. They’d gone through four copywriters in the same amount of time; I was number five.

Bruno said, Reservoir Dogs, did I know this film?

“Bien sur,” I said, adding, “Mr. Pink?”

“Okay, good,” Bruno said in English. “Then, Mr. Pink… do not be this. Do not be saying in the office, ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’”

Evidently Bruno had overheard me swearing. He wanted me to know that cursing wasn’t cool in Parisian office culture. It seemed to weigh on Bruno, speaking English like that, correcting my behavior. As though envisioning trials to come.

The book is called Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and is due out soooon.

Paris in logos

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 20, 2011

Logo Tourist is a project by Risto-Jussi Isopahkala that depicts cityscapes and famous Parisian landmarks made up of famous logos. Here’s the Arc de Triumph (sponsored by Pepsi and Adidas):

Arc De Branding

See also Logorama.

The worst restaurant in the world

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 07, 2011

A.A. Gill has a hilarious and epic review of L’Ami Louis in Paris, which he dubs “the worst restaurant in the world”.

What you actually find when you arrive at L’Ami Louis is singularly unprepossessing. It’s a long, dark corridor with luggage racks stretching the length of the room. It gives you the feeling of being in a second-class railway carriage in the Balkans. It’s painted a shiny, distressed dung brown. The cramped tables are set with labially pink cloths, which give it a colonic appeal and the awkward sense that you might be a suppository. In the middle of the room is a stubby stove that also looks vaguely proctological.

A tour of the abandoned Paris Metro

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 23, 2010

sleepycity has tons of photos of some old trains and abandoned Paris Metro stations and tunnels.

Old Paris Metro sign

(via @bldgblog)

Paris vs New York

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2010

The Paris vs New York blog presents a series of illustrated comparisons between the two cities: macaroons vs. cupcakes, baguette vs bagel, and espresso vs American coffee:

Paris vs New York

Paris art heist

posted by Aaron Cohen   May 20, 2010

A masked bandit broke into the Paris Museum of Modern Art last night and stole 5 paintings. Included in the grab were a Picasso and a Matisse.

Here is the list of paintings and what they look like:
”Le pigeon aux petits-pois” (The Pigeon with the Peas) by Pablo Picasso
”La Pastorale” (Pastoral) by Henri Matisse
‘L’olivier pres de l’Estaque” (Olive Tree near Estaque) by Georges Braque
‘La femme a l’eventail” (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani
”Nature-mort aux chandeliers” (Still Life with Chandeliers) by Fernand Leger

(via @jkottke)

Massive panorama of Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 16, 2010

A 26-gigapixel image of Paris. Fully zoomable and pannable. Sacré-Coeur starts out as a tiny speck and you can zoom in to see a bunch of people sitting on the steps outside.

Paris, 1962

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 04, 2010

Images from Paris cafes and nightlife in 1962, the same week Yves St. Laurent’s runway show vaulted Dior to new heights. Many scenes around Les Halles (which no longer exists as it did then).

From the collection, a photo of some Les Halles butchers enjoying a drink at Au Pied de Cochon:

Au Pied De Cochon 1962

Update: As Wikipedia notes, Saint Laurent’s fabled show took place in 1958; Dior was gone from Dior by ‘62. Not sure whether the caption is wrong or the photos are really from 1958. (thx, alex)

Harry Beck Paris Metro map

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 12, 2009

Harry Beck, designer of the iconic London Tube map, once took a crack at a map for the Paris Metro, but his effort was rejected for being too geometric.

So why did the Paris Metro (now operated by the RATP) reject Beck’s clear simplification of their beloved system? One reason is visible at each station entrance; Parisians use the maps here as a free public service to help them find their way round the city - the ubiquitous geographic wall map is more than just a Metro plan.

Free bikes freed

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 12, 2009

The wonderful free bikes program started 18 months ago in Paris has run into some trouble.

Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen. They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll. The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.

Reports have some of the stolen bikes showing up as far away as Eastern Europe and North Africa.

Update: But even with the thefts, the program is still making money for Paris & JCDecaux and enjoys a 94% satisfaction rate among Parisians.

Last July, the city of Paris agreed to pay JCDecaux 400 euros for every bike stolen in excess of four percent of the total fleet each year. Given the enormous popularity of Velib — users have taken 42 million rides since its debut — the cost of those payments is minimal. Using the BBC’s figure of 7,800 missing bikes, the pricetag for the city comes to less than 2 million euros annually, out of 20 million euros in user fees.

(thx, adam)

Update: Late correction…the Paris program is, of course, not free. (thx, afsheen)

Historic Paris photography

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 23, 2008

It seems like I’ve linked to this before but why not again? Paris en Images is a huge collection of historic photos of Paris.

Quiet Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 31, 2008

If Paris is getting quiet again, it must be the end of July, a nice set of photos from Rion Nakaya.

Paris in decline

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 24, 2008

Is Paris stagnant?

“Paris, and France, are definitely having an identity crisis,” says Christophe Boicos, a gallery owner and art professor for several American universities. “They have been living off their 19th- and 20th-century heritage for a long time. At the opening of the 21st century, they need to redefine themselves.”

Artists looking for the buzz go to London or Berlin, or further afield to New York, rather than Paris, says German art historian Wilfried Rogasch. “Paris is in stagnation. Talented people from around the world go to Paris. But they don’t go there for stimulation, they go to see Paris.”

I’ve said this before, but Paris — the central part of it anyway — seems like a giant museum. We’ve thought of living there for a year or two but after a recent one-day trip there, that doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. (via vqr)

Color photos of occupied Paris

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 10, 2008

André Zucca’s color photographs of Paris during the German occupation of WWII have provoked controversy because Zucca worked for a German propaganda magazine. But Richard Brody argues that Zucca’s photographs are true to the Paris of the time and don’t just show the “cheerful ease” of the city’s residents.

Certainly, Zucca couldn’t get the whole story: he photographed Jews wearing the star but couldn’t show the roundups or the deportation to Auschwitz; he could show German soldiers but couldn’t show the arrest, torture, and execution of resisters. He couldn’t, but nobody could; the problem wasn’t that he worked for a propaganda rag: photographers who actively worked for the Resistance couldn’t do it either. But what he did do was to capture the paradoxes of the Occupation, where horror and pleasure coexisted in shockingly close proximity, where the active resistance to Nazi occupation was in fact far less prevalent than the feigned daily oblivion of those who kept their heads down and tried to cope.

More of Zucca’s photos are here.