Sunday, November 15, 2009

Albi and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec

We recently flew to Perpignan, France on Ryan Air. It was a deal too great to pass up (30 euros for 3 round trip tickets). And with our neighbor friends Dick and Margaret living in the region we were itching to visit. After spending Friday night in Perpignan we took the early morning train to Carcassonne and then drove to the town of Albi. The train was magical. Through sleepy eyes we watched the sun rise right along these tide pools. The train seemed to be gliding right through the water!
Connor was all smiles as the sun beamed. Gotta love Southern France's warmth in October! I thought it especially strange that Connor's hair seemed to straighten out. Where did the curls go?The pink bow didn't last very long before Connor had her way with it!...We arrived in Albi midday and just as the siesta closed everything down from 12-2. This part of France is a hop, skip and a jump from Spain so it seemed the 2 hour break had migrated across the border.
While we waited for the town to reopen we ate lunch at a cafe and explored on foot. The cathedral was magnificent. It looked like the church my grandparents attended - First Presbyterian in Greensboro - except this one was about ten times larger! I couldn't fathom how many millions of teeny tiny bricks there were.
The cathedral's interior was especially spectacular too. It was the right combination of old and new. The colors were vibrant and the choir stall the most ornate I have seen.
When I spied this angel in the choir I had to capture the single spotlight the sun naturally made on her.
Albi turned out to be a fun little town. Blue skies and pedestrianized streets ruled the day. We found a local market and bought clementines for our little fruit lover. The vendor insisted on packing in some free plums for Connor too. It tickles me when Connor charms French folks into free treats!
The real reason we traveled to Albi was to see the world class Musee Toulouse-Lautrec. This is the home of the world's largest collection of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's paintings, posters, and sketches. I have always been a fan of Toulouse-Lautrec's art and relished the opportunity to know the artist even better. He always felt like a guy you could see and understand in his technique.
Henri was born in Albi in 1864 and was crippled from youth. After he broke both legs, the lower half of his body never grew correctly. His father, once very engaged in parenting, lost interest in his son. Because of this, Henri was on the fringe of society, and therefore had an affinity for people who didn't quite fit in. He later made his mark painting the dregs of the Parisian underclass with an intimacy only made possible by a man with his life experience.
Henri moved to the big city to pursue his painting passion. In his early Paris works, we see his trademark shocking colors and down-and-dirty, street-life scenes emerge. Henri augmented his classical training with vivid life experience. His subjects were from bars, brothels, and cabarets. Henri was particularly fascinated by cancan dancers (whose legs moved with an agility he'd never experience) and captured them expertly.
Musee Toulouse-Lautrec was a museum I am glad we didn't miss. Lots of redheads in Henri's Parisian canvases. Why are redheads always in the brothels?!?! Oh well. The sidetrip from Carcassonne to Albi was a longer trip than we planned. So while we were happy we saw it, it did turn into a bigger investment than we intended. We headed back to Carcassonne to dine with our friend, Dick, and to celebrate the Harvest of the New Wine!...

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