Travel Stories

PARIS: In The Footsteps of Dutch Artists

The email said ‘save the date’ and I popped a note in my diary, assuming I’d soon receive a Zoom link. In the past year or so I’ve attended dozens of online events, I wasn’t expecting Eurostar tickets. I’d not left the country since March 2020, I’d not even been on a train for a whole 20 months, and now I was more than ready to head to Paris, in the real world. Mais oui.

We were up before the birds, down to St Pancras and smoothly through into the Business Premier lounge. Hot tea, people, all the magazines. Onto the train. No hot breakfast. Rushing through the countryside, ‘are we in France yet?’ the telling sign being the difference in electricity pylons, ‘yes’.

Such a strange feeling, still, to board a train in London and walk out of the station into Paris. The closest thing to teleportation I’ve ever experienced.

We were driven to the Musee de Montmartre, up through the steep streets, turning corners to look up at the Sacre Coeur, and out across the city at the Eiffel Tower through hazy blue-grey mist.

In the museum café we sat quietly, mouths full of Croque Monsieur, a window view over Renoir’s garden, and exhibition presentations from the Singer Laren and Van Gogh museums.

Into the street, headphone in one ear for an audio tour of Montmartre and the Dutch artists. Winding streets, downhill, up steps, past La Maison Rose and the loitering instagrammers, past the shining bust of Dalida, to the Theatre Lepic for presentations from Mauritshuis and Rijksmuseum.

I can’t wait (and have fingers crossed) to be in the Netherlands next year to visit the exhibitions, The Impossible Bouquet at Mauritshuis, and at Rijksmuseum I need, need, to see Clara the Rhinoceros.

At the Hotel Bass we stopped for quick presentations from Kunsthal and Voorlinden. Last time I was in Rotterdam (2019, with my own exhibition for Pow! Wow!) I went to see Street Dreams at the Kunsthal and it was just so good, so well researched and presented.

We followed in the footsteps of the Dutch artists, walked where Van Gogh once walked; Breitner, Ary Scheffer, and van Dongen (great names). We stopped where they had stood, looked, lived and painted. I wondered if they’d worn clogs. I wished I’d worn clogs.

Our last stop, once the home of Ary Scheffer, a beautiful Italianate mansion with a courtyard full of pink roses, the Musée de la Vie Romantique. Chopin was a regular visitor here, there’s even a cast of his hand. So many casts of dead hands, and fabulous carpet. Also, we came across a room full of children upstairs and I am sure they were conducting a séance.

We drank chocolat chaud at pink marble tables outside a street corner café, watched the people and the traffic, recounted our day. It was a joy to be in Paris, to be with good people, to see things, just to look at things and to think and learn, to be inspired, and energised, and to look forward to more. What a day, a tonic of a day.

I picked up so much information about what’s to come from the Dutch museums and galleries as we hopscotched across the Parisian hotspots, and here are some of my favourite exhibitions for us to see in the Netherlands, next year, hopefully…

  • Jan Sluijters and the Modernists / 09 Mar 2022 – 8 May 2022 / Singer Laren
  • Kees van Dongen  / 17 Jan 2023 – 07 May 2023 / Singer Laren
  • Here We Are – Woman in Design 1900 – Today / 18 Jun – 29 Oct 2022 / Kunsthal Rotterdam
  • Calder Now / 21 Nov 2021 – 29 May 2022 / Kunsthal Rotterdam
  • In Full Bloom / 17 Feb – 1 Jun 2022 / Mauritshuis
  • The Impossible Bouquet / From 16 Feb 2022 / Mauritshuis
  • Mauritshuis Murals / Spring/Summer 2022 / Mauritshuis
  • Modern Japanese Lacquer / 01 Jul – 04 Sept 2022 / Rijksmuseum
  • Clara the Rhinoceros / 30 Sept 2022 – 15 Jan 2023 / Rijksmuseum
  • Beat Zoderer / 19 Feb – 15 May 2022 / Voorlinden

Please check directly with the museums and galleries before you travel, just in case things have changed by the time you read this. Fingers crossed to see you there!

And, if you’re interested in taking the walking tour, you can download the app for free here and search for Montmartre: Van Gogh and Other Dutch Painters.

I was a guest of, and travelled with, Visit Netherlands, along with a small group of lovely journalists. As always, my opinions are my own (and my delight at seeing a good carpet, still strong!)