Debussy and the arts

Debussy and the arts

If the biting cold discourages you from walking along the large alleyways of the Tuileries gardens that trace a majestic perspective from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Elysées, why not take refuge in the Musée de l’Orangerie, a discreet building at the park’s gate, around the corner from Hotel Powers and the Grand Hotel du Palais Royal?

Just yesterday, a delicate and beautiful exhibition was opened to the public at the Orangerie – one which stimulates the ear as well as the eye in an unusual approach of the early 20th century Parisian arts scene. Jean-Michel Nectoux, author of a fine and knowledgeable hardcover book entitled Harmonies in blue and gold: Debussy, music and the arts, turned paper in reality by curating an exhibition under the same title, with the cooperation of the Musée d’Orsay, the specialist institution on that specific period.

Debussy, a composer of modern, airy “Images” for piano and orchestra was deeply influenced by the poetic and visual arts of his time, to the point of recreating them in music. All along his life, Debussy took a stand for the most modern artists in all fields, appreciating the works of Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Camille Claudel, Manet. Debussy also knew to look beyond Paris and was a fervent admirer of Turner and Whistler as well as an Orientalist, a collector of Asian arts.

As you walk through the exhibition, the paintings, poetry, pieces of correspondence, and Art Nouveau artifacts seem to dance to the music, and you find yourself transported to a pre-WWI Paris, when symbolism and impressionism fought for the city’s poetry, painting, and music.