Saturday, July 24, 2010

L'Inspiration Francaise, Part IV - Museums & Exhibitions

My April trip to Paris lasted two weeks and allowed me to explore small museums and visit exhibitions that usually aren't on a visitor’s itinerary. Each was an adventure, taking me to unfamiliar areas around Paris and leading to some wonderful discoveries, often related to needlework and design. Another benefit: they are generally not crowded and visited primarily by locals.

Musee de la Vie Romantique

A French acquaintance recommended this small museum near Pigalle because of the special exhibition honoring Frederic Chopin’s Bicentennial. Dedicated to the Romantic Movement, at its peak of influence in Paris from 1810 to 1840, this eclectic museum is located in the private home and studio of Ary Scheffer, a portraitist of the time. Scheffer and his daughter hosted salons that were frequented by George Sand, Chopin and Franz Liszt amongst others. There is a permanent collection in the house that features many personal items of George Sand, including her tartanware needle case, a beaded necklace she made for her daughter, and other stitching items.

Perhaps best of all, the museum has this delightful garden with a tea shop providing a lovely place to recover from touring the museum over a light lunch or tea while admiring the beautiful flowers.

Musee de Toile de Jouy

Yes, there is a museum dedicated to toile! Located in a Parisian suburb near Versailles township, it’s easily reached by the RER commuter train coupled with a short walk. The museum is in a small chateau surrounded by lovely gardens on the site of the Manufacturie Oberkampf which began producing toile de jouy fabric in 1760, dominating the market for generations.

Did you know that toile is a fabric printing technique, not a particular design style? I always thought toile was limited to single color (usually black or blue) prints of pastoral scenes against a white background. I could not have been more wrong! Turns out that just about any repeat patterned fabric printed using wood or copper blocks is a toile.

Samples of what we typically consider to be toile fabric.

Of course there is a large gift shop with every item imaginable made out of toile or reflecting a toile de jouy pattern. This bookmark was too cute to resist --- and has already given me finishing ideas for a design or two!

I'm sure you notice that the toile fabric used for the bookmark is a multi-colored floral print rather than a monochromatic pastoral scene.

to be continued...


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