Paris Museums: Love is in the Air

Trekking to Paris? Gaga for gargoyles? The Gothic 16th-century Saint-Jacques Tower is open for a limited time this summer. Arrive early to reserve your catbird seat! (Through September 15 2013) Photos by T. Brack

BRACK Books 26

The Music Lesson, Francois Boucher, 1749, Musée Cognacq-Jay

By Theadora Brack

Oops, I did it again.

I attended an exposition’s “vernissage” (literally, the “varnishing”—what we would call the opening), and became smitten with the show and its fine-looking catalog. Obsession activated! Hit hard, and a post card just wouldn’t do. Let me tell you, during the late summer days in Paris, there is nothing sweeter than curling up with an art book in a park just before l’heure bleue.

But, how to score an affordable art catalogue? Take my hand, here’s how this fool falls in love.

1. Check out that rack of glossies

Most museum shops sell “les albums de l’exposition” (guides, magazines, and portfolios). Published by Beaux Arts Magazine, Connaissance des Arts, Le Figaro, or the museum itself, these slim gems are usually prominently displayed, lightweight and affordable, costing just €2 to €10. Full of visuals with punch, they’ll satisfy your head, pocketbook and suitcase. Translated versions are often available, too.

2. Crack Da Chintzy code

La Boutique du Musée du Louvre not only carries current and back issues of “albums de l’exposition,” but also discounts catalogs from its previous expositions by up to 60% off their original cost.

Putti meet, greet and create at the Grand Palais

CUPID, DRAW BACK YOUR BOW at the Grand Palais


More Tips Ahoy

Other museums like the Centre Pompidou, Musée Carnavalet, and the Palais de Tokyo also slash art catalogue prices throughout the year.

Always one to boast, while at the Musée national de la Marine, I recently netted their  “Le Marins Font La Mode—Sailor Chic in Paris” catalog for just a few euros. The felt “bachi” on the cover wooed me like a siren. By the way, the museum also carries handsome striped shirts by designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Steady yourself, Matey. Even the bags are suited in stripes. Now that’s an outfit!

3. Cha-ching at Fuh-nack

Fnac (pronounced “fuh-nack”) also discounts their inventory of books. This includes the catalogues from this year’s blockbuster shows, like Edward Hopper at the Grand Palais, Keith Haring at the Centquatre and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Roy Lichtenstein at the Centre Pompidou. Magazines by Beaux Arts are also discounted here. At the moment, I’m coveting the Musée d’Orsay’s Le Romantisme Noir de Goya à Max Ernst. Like the show, it’s a stunner.

Tip: Founded in 1954, Fnac also stocks cameras, camera chips and batteries (not to mention DVDs, CDs, and tons of French comic books Bande dessinée (an art form all their own).



4. Flâneur-tastique. That’s how we stroll.

I’ve been known to spend entire days in the aisles of Mona Lisait Librairies. Although this funky bookstore chain that specializes in new and used art books has shops scattered all over Paris, its Marais location at 17bis rue Pavée is closest to my heart. Its creaky wooden floorboards, uneven brick flooring, tinny classical music, helpful staff, and free gift-wrapping all add up to real atmosphere.

For another take on the arts, go meet the artists or at least their wax replicas at the Musée Grévin (Paris Wax Museum). Then visit the Librairie du Passage just a few feet away at 39 and 48 Passage Jouffroy. Open since 1846, it’s in one of Paris’ classic 19th-century shopping arcades. Even bargain hound Victor Hugo shopped here.

6. Mosey on to Glory

Here I weep. At La librairie de l’Avenue in the middle of Clignancourt Flea Market, the angels sing on high from a little CD player located just below the cashier’s desk. The sweet smell of frankincense tickles the nose. This large but still cozy bookshop is well stocked with new and used art books, vintage prints and antique magazines. Deciding exactly where to start my quest is the only glitch I encounter here as I make my way though the narrow labyrinth of floor to ceiling bookshelves, stocked with discounted books that have been meticulously organized by category, author or genre.

After visiting the Petit Palais, stroll across the Pont Alexandre III the Pont Alexandre III

After visiting the Petit Palais, stroll across the Pont Alexandre III the Pont Alexandre III

An important note on pronunciation:

You risk raising a few bemused eyebrows if you ask for directions to an “exhibition.” “Exhibitions” (with an “h”) are peep show—which is fine, if that’s the sort of display you’re after. However, if you’re looking for art, give that word a “p”–“exposition.” Oh, la la.

Trekking to Paris in September?

Here are eight expositions I’m looking forward to seeing. Love is swinging in the air. Heads-up: A few of my picks are scheduled to close in September, so plan accordingly.

1. Pinacothèque
L’Art Nouveau: La révolution décorative
Tamara de Lempicka: La Reine de l’Art déco
Through September 8 2013

Art Nouveau AND Art Deco. Pinch yourself! Looking for another win-grin? After your visit, trek it on over to the Jardin des Tuileries. The walk should take you about 15 minutes, but with all the architecture whizzing by, it will feel like five.

2. Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits
Titanic, 100 ans après

Closes on September 9th 2013 but our hearts will go on—Near, far, wherever you are. But for now, anchors aweigh!

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Centre Pompidou

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Centre Pompidou


3. Musée Jacquemart-André
Désirs et volupté à l’époque victorienne, Alma-Tadema, Leighton, Burne-Jones
September 13 2013 to January 13 2014

Downton Abbey fans, don’t leave the building without having tea in the former formal dining room. It’s worth every cent and calorie. Flaunting frescoes by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and chocolate cake, I’ve never failed to make the scene without getting weepy. Afterwards, rendezvous to your heart’s content in the nearby Parc Monceau.

4. Musée de Montmartre
Impressions à Montmartre: Eugène Delâtre and Alfredo Müller
September 14 2013 to January 12 2014

“Come up and see my etchings.” That’s what Eugène Delâtre said.

Inventing color engraving in his rue Lepic studio in Montmartre, his brand-spanking-new technique inspired Picasso, Steinlen, and Toulouse-Lautrec, along with Renoir, Alfredo Müller, and Suzanne Valadon. Featuring works by Delâtre, Müller, and Valadon, the eyes are treated to scenes of daily life in early 20th century Montmartre—night and day, along with portraits of stage starlet Sarah Bernhardt, and dancer Cléopatra de Mérode (the Beyoncé of her day!).

Tunnel Vision at the Center Pompidou

5. Grand Palais
Georges Braque
September 18 2013 to January 6 2014

And speaking of Montmartre, it was here at “le Bateau-Lavoir” that Picasso met Georges Braque. “Notre pard,” Picasso took to calling the six-foot former boxer, race car driver and dancer, a phrase he pinched from “Les Histoires de Buffalo Bill.” A tight bond was formed, and Cubism took flight. That was back when you could say, “Be there or be square” and really mean it!

6. Musée national Jean-Jacques Henner
Sensualité et spiritualité: À la recherche de l’absolu
Through September 16 2013

Along with Henner’s dreamy paintings of radiant nudes, the exhibition features his private notebooks, diaries, drawings and sketches. This is one of my favorite ways to get intimate with an artist. It’s all about the process, I say. After your visit, float on over to the Parc Monceau for some more love in the ruins and music lessons.

7. Musée d’Orsay
Masculin / Masculin: L’homme nu dans l’art de 1800 à nos jours
(Masculine / Masculine: The Nude Man in Art from 1800 to the Present Day)
September 24 2013 to January 2 2014

Don't miss the Librairie du Passage in the 19th century Passage Jouffroy. Open since 1846, even bargain hound Victor Hugo shopped here!

Don’t miss the Librairie du Passage in the 19th century Passage Jouffroy. Open since 1846, even bargain hound Victor Hugo shopped here!


Strike a Pose

I have the Anna Wintour bangs, so where’s my front row seat? Mark your calendar and get set. Glow! Then, afterwards hotfoot it on over to the Jardin des Tuileries (literally, “the tileworks”). Built atop the clay pits of the former city tile factory, here swanky cafés, chairs, and over one hundred statues (including many by Maillol) also seductively tempt.

8. Centre Pompidou
Roy Lichtenstein, ‘Une rétrospective’
Through November 4 2013

WHAAM. Oh, Roy. I do love you. Darling, these paintings are masterpieces even if they are a bit cartoonish! But then again, so am I. Pop goes the easel! After your visit, cool your heels by the Stravinsky fountain. Keep your eyes peeled for Jef Aerosol’s “Shhhh” mural. Created by the great graffiti artist back in June 2011, it measures in at an impressive 350 square meters. The mural’s message? “Stop, look and appreciate the city!” It certainly stopped me in my tracks.

Clipping from Henry Miller YET again

“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music—the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”

Carpe diem!

Grand Palais at l'heure bleue

Grand Palais at l’heure bleue Tip: the Pont Alexandre III is just a hop, kiss and jump away

Epic Weepie View of the Eiffel Tower from the Pont Alexandre III

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97 thoughts on “Paris Museums: Love is in the Air

    • Thank you, Dana!

      Good. Golly! I loved your recent shots of Venice. Do you have a favorite museum or monument in Paris?

      And YES. I highly recommend visiting the Saint-Jacques Tower. It’s surrounded by a little square, perfect for picnics. The bell tower once was part of a 13th-century church, Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie. Great name, eh?

      Enjoy the weekend!


      • I cant wait to visit Paris – i will have to let you know when so i can buy you a drink for this wonderful blog x


      • Thank you for Venice words and for your recommendation.
        Well, I hadn’t a chance to be in France yet..but I know for sure first thing that I want to see is the Place de la Bastille, even there are no remains, that prison had a huge impact in my childhood, reading from Alexandre Dumas and not only.


  1. Dear Theodora
    Some excellent catalogue buying tips fr one as afflicted with that particular bug as yourself. I do wish we had those ‘catalogue lite’ options you describe here in London, what a money saving wheeze!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy


    • Dear Perfumed Dandy!

      OUI. I’m cuckoo for catalogues. Prolonging the experience, perhaps. By the way, La librairie de l’Avenue (Clignancourt Flea Market) has a fine selection of books and catalogs on fragrance. Perhaps you’ve been there? And speaking of scents, I love the smell of bookshops-new and old. They should bottle it.

      Enjoy the weekend!

      (Do you have a favorite bookshop in London?)


  2. Thanks for this insightful overview – I’ve been to some of the more “obvious” galleries but next time I’m in Paris, will check out the hidden jewels you mentioned. And what a great idea to buy the catalogues retrospectively……which makes me think that there are surely similar bargains around the world. I’m also a devoted fan of fnac and get most of my French books from them online. Super post!


    • Merci, Dina! I also love Fnac. The Saint-Lazare Passage du Havre is my favorite location. It’s neighbors with Sephora and Zara. One stop shopping!

      And speaking of hidden jewels, I also enjoy visiting the Musée de la Poupée
, located near the Centre Pompidou. It’s also worth the trek. Permanent collection features 400 historic French dolls. There’s een a doctor in the house. Dr. Véronique Derez (La Docteur Miracle) is usually on call on Thursday afternoons, and will gladly mend eyeballs, replace lashes and repair! And YES. There’s also a gift shop and little garden.

      Sweet museum!


  3. I hope some day I’ll be in Paris and can check out all (well, maybe I wouldn’t be there long enough), your recommendations. They’re always intriguing and inviting. Tea sounds especially good right now. 🙂 Hope you’ve had a chance to visit Yellowstone (and Wyoming) with me. I also hope all’s well with you.



    • Hi Janet!! YES. YES. YES. I’ve been enjoying your Yellowstone (and Wyoming) jaunt. Road tripping is much fun, eh? It’s the perfect time of the year! Are you going to create a master list of your favorite stops?

      Where are you headed now? I think I just spotted one of your posts. I’ll visit later on this evening!

      Keep the tea brewing!


      • Just brewed a pot of Yellow Mountain Summit (Huang Shan Mao Feng) and am saving some for you. As for where I’m headed next, our house sold and we have to be out by Aug. 31, so that will be it for a bit. Looks like I’ll go with my husband on a business trip (business for him, relaxation for me) trip to San Francisco later in September. I’ll need it!!

        Tea is ready and waitin as always.



      • Thanks for saving the tea!

        Oh. Yes. The move. I’ll be thinking about your at the end of the month. Positive energy is on its way. San Francisco will be the perfect break for you. I’m green with envy. A few years ago, I got to spend time road tripping in Nevada. The sky was so blue. It was so much fun. Relaxing, too. I need to plan a road trip. . .

        Thanks for the push!


    • Ah, thanks A.! I appreciate the swell words. And by the way, the feeling is mutual. I love your “Urban Traveller. Night Owl” site. It’s chock-full full of gorgeous photographs and interesting historical tidbits. It’s true! T. (Enjoy the weekend!)


    • Lovely words!! Oh, no. The pressure! I’m throwing on my apron now. Where’s my Julia Child cookbook? tick. . .tick. . .tick… T. (Hey, thanks for the giggle. Enjoy your weekend!)


    • I love, love, love your words (and photography)! Do you have a favorite museum or monument in Paris?

      Here’s some additional information about the guides tours offered by the Saint-Jacques Tower:

      Through September 15th, guided tours are offered on the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) on the hour from 10 AM to 5 PM. Tours are limited to 17 people at a time, and you must arrive by 9 AM to reserve a spot. Fee is six euros. Worth every cent.


      • Thank you, Theodora! Musee d’Orsay is probably my favorite. I know it’s big, but I’ve been lucky enough to get in there at some quiet times.


  4. Again another stellar post, gorgeous illustrations and top tips! We have two Hopper shows at the moment, the Whitney’s collection of his drawings and MoMA’s early 20th century American art…Hopper seems to be all the rage. Wish we could have been able to jet over to see the Hopper. Do you know if it travelled?


    • Interesting! Hopper is is hopping. How were the shows? The New York Times gave the MoMA’s exhibition a mixed review. Did you get to see it? Do you have a favorite Hopper work? I’ve always loved Chop Suey (1929). I think Hopper lived in Paris three times. I’ll dig up the dates and addresses. At first he hated the frequent (but always brief) rain showers. The change in lighting drove him crazy! T. (I also check on the Paris show. Perhaps it traveled. . .)


  5. CARPE DIEM!!! I have. Oh I so Have. Out of the cupboards come my valises with the extra heavy leather straps – the better to load with the loot of art books and post cards and oh my oh my all the glorious bootee of a museum crawl. I am in heaven. I am in love again and again with Musee d’Orsy, Musee Henner, Grand Palais – and oh the aisles of Mona Lisair Lebraries. I’ve worn the heels of my ruby slippers down to tiny nubs walking and walking. I’ve just spotted Tinny sitting at a little side-walk cafe. He has two very cold glasses of Champagne on the table. XXOO


    • Virginia, I thought I spotted you at the Monalisait! Did you find any treasures? (By the way, “Mona lisait” means “Mona was reading.” I love this tidbit!) How was the champagne sipping with Monsieur Tin Man? Forest green with envy!


      (Valises with the extra heavy leather straps. I also covet and collect suitcases. Old. New. Another obsession. I just scored a set in apple red. Satin interiors. No wheels. I’m smitten. If only they talk! T.


      • I still have the square leather make-up case (gray satin lining, ivory leather trim) my parents gave me when I was 18 years old. I am pea green with envy over you apple red luggage. Tres chic!!! XOXO V.


      • Virginia, I thoroughly enjoyed your “Reasons to Drink Champagne” post! T. (A few years ago, I got to run in the Semi Marathon International de Reims. It rained cats and dogs all day! After the race, we toured the Champagne houses and the Foujita chapel. Sampling the bubbly was the perfect way to warm up on such a cold day!)

        Here’s the link to Virginia’s nod to Champagne:


      • Theadora, running in pigtails. Changing from running shoes to high heeled green satin shoes to sip away the rest of the day with sparkling magic. How splendid!! V.


      • …………oh for the love……..there I awoke, sitting in the stoop of Le Procope, a half full bottle of champagne still clutched in my hand and you and Virginia have run off to the museums! I run from Musée du Louvre to the Grand Palais to the Musée d’Orsay only to find the remnants of ruby sparkles from Virginia’s slippers!!! To the shade in a café for more champagne……oh my here comes Virginia…….we shall start again!!!


      • I’m on my way! I’m on my way! I’ve got another bottle of bubbly, along with cheese and a warm baguette. Then, we’ll head to the aisles of kitchen-equipment specialist E. Dehillerin! “Thunderstruck!” is how Julia Child described of the heated encounter with the centuries-old shop. Sigh. It would be great fun to explore the shiny treasures with my two favorite chefs! T. (Enjoy the week and the pocket of ruby sparkles!)


  6. What a great array of offerings. As always, your post makes me nostalgic for my long-ago student days one summer in Paris. Many years ago. Hint: we went to the Musee Jeu de Paume for Impressionists; no d’Orsay. Loved that little gem of a museum — d’Orsay not so much.


    • I agree! The Jeu de Paume is a great space. I love their café. Back in March, I got to see Laure Ablin Guillot’s photography (1879-1962). The show included her portraits of Jean Cocteau, Lucienne Boyer, and Colette-among others. Dramatic. Striking! Guillot’s advertising work is also pretty darn terrific.
      Enjoy the weekend!


    • Ah, MERCI. 🙂 It was fun to create. It was difficult to limit my picks to eight museums. Perhaps I’ll create a part II. Sending positive writing vibes your way!! T. (And thanks for spreading the word. I appreciate it!)


    • Well, thank you!

      Here’s some Paris fashion history news! I think the Musée Galliera (fashion museum) is reopening on Saturday, September 28 2013. I just received a media release. I’ll confirm and report back. I hope they added a larger gift shop!


      (Again, I really loved your handmade souvenir lamp shades. Fabulous idea! I especially loved the one with Princess Di. Sweet.)


      • Thank you! I was very inspired that week…all that fresh air and countryside I think. Ta for info on fashion museum…never managed to see that one yet so will make a plan….


  7. Entertaining and amusing! It seems that one should no so much mind one’s ‘p’s and q’s’ but rather ‘p’s and h’s’ 😉 Love the photographs!!


    • As always, merci!! I first made the exhibition-exposition years ago in a French class. The teacher and class had great fun and big chuckles with it! Oh, la, la. T. (Enjoy the weekend!)


      • Most welcome! In learning Italian, I have most recently also to my teacher’s mirth, also discovered a single letter makes all the difference in ‘penna, pene, penne’ 🙂


  8. So wonderful, Mlle B.! For many moments on a warm, glorious Chicago Saturday afternoon, I was actullay right beside you in Paris, wandering from place to place! I only wish I could have captured all these fab images, especially the sun setting on the Pont Alexandre III and your still-fantastic-after-all-these-years tower!!!

    Merci bien!


    • Merci! Say, did you take any photographs on this warm, glorious Chicago Saturday afternoon? I loved your shots of Chagall’s Four Seasons! Gorgeous. T. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m also mad, mad about the gift shop at the Art Institute of Chicago. The nearby Chicago Architecture Foundation also has a sweet shop.)

      Enjoy the week!


  9. Hey, T! I so loved this post – I’m really digging your photography (that first photograph is so romantic and makes me want to get on the Eurostar right now). Your guide reminded me of how much I loved rooting around in gallery bookshops – our shelves are groaning with coffee table books and ex-cats (but the latest is from the mid-00s 😦 )


    • Thank you, Richard! I know! I know! My shelves are also “groaning with ex-cats’ (I love this fabulous description!) Mid-00s? So have you kicked the habit? T. (I really need to organize my France research books. Thanks for the push!)


      • Yes, kind of, but not out of choice – we don’t get out to galleries much anymore and I believe an accurate euphamism would be our financial circumstances have changed. We’re skint 🙂


  10. Hi Theadora, Love your post and pics, as always. Wish I could be in Paris in September—but was there in August so can’t really complain!


      • No exhibitions this time, as we were on a quest to find chateaux we could visit on day trips from Paris. Will write them up soon. But, we did see a Philippe Bordas exhibition earlier in Slovenia. Wonderful


  11. Great, helpful post!! I’m saving it with hopes of a trip to Paris in my future… My favorite museum from previous Paris trips in the Musee Carnavalet– so varied and informative and in the beautiful palace.. thanks the the travel inspiration!!


  12. And I live here why? Why, when I could be in your corner of the world making my way from one great exposition to another… At least you can tell me about them and then I can ferret them out online….


  13. Curling up with an art book just before l’heure bleue sounds so perfect that I’m somehow going to have to get there again just to do that. I love Edward Hopper and keep meaning to go to some of those places he painted around here.


  14. Theodora, wonderful as always! I love the distinction between the exhibition and exposition. Sounds like a very important point to know! 🙂 Karen


  15. A lovely tour, Miss Brack! And… I admit I almost wrote “Miss Black” due in large part to all the Anime dear Mrs. Emeron and I of late have been watching. Lately it has been a “Bleach” marathon (for the 4th or 5th time through) currently at episode 17–only 300 and some to go….


  16. Thea, Paris in September. Must be nice! I vowed not to return to Europe in the summer, ever, this year’s trip to Germany and the Czech Republic was scorching in late July. Last year was also hot on the Italian and French Rivera at the end of August. So, next year, late September maybe….. Thanks for your tips. I’ll keep them in mind.


  17. You conjure up the best, most vivid imagery, history, insight, bon mots, joie de vie, paris scrumptious and delicious! I’m a fan 🙂


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