IMPRESSIONIST ISLAND … A TREASURE …

  The mere name – Impressionist Island – Ile des Impressionnists – makes one think ‘art’. Makes one think ‘Monet … Manet … Pissarro … Paris, City of Light … Paris City of Art …’ If you have never been to this island, then I saw much recommend that you do go there. And why not […]

Impressionist Island (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

The mere name – Impressionist Island – Ile des Impressionnists – makes one think ‘art’. Makes one think ‘Monet … Manet … Pissarro … Paris, City of Light … Paris City of Art …’

If you have never been to this island, then I saw much recommend that you do go there. And why not this summer, as it is a place for sunny and warm days.

Impressionist Island is on the River Seine, one of many on the Seine – there are even two islands on the Seine in central Paris, the Notre Dame Cathedral standing on one of the two –  but you can believe me when I say that not one of those islands has the charm of this island.

It is about 14 kms (9 miles) west from Paris. (In a moment a well tell you how to get there.)

It was on this island, towards the end of the 19th century, that a group of painters who were to become known as the Impressionists used to gather to set up their easels and to lay out their brushes and tubes of paint in order to record on canvas the scenery they were beholding all around them. Today their creations are worth millions and millions in whatever currency comes to mind.

The island is, I admit, not easy to get to, which you may find a problem, but in that lies its charm surely. In other words: it is far from the madding crowd, a place where one can relax, forget all one’s cares. 

The town nearest to the island is Chatou, and Chatou is one of several towns nesting in that area alognside the Seine. For example there is Le Pecq, Le Vésinet, Croissy-sur-Seine, Rieul-Malmaison, Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Le Pont Marly, to name but a few.

If you do not have your own transport and would have to use public transport to get to this island Impressionist, the nearest train station is Chatou-Croissy. In other words Chatou shares a station with the town of Croissy-sur-Seine. From the station there is a short walk to the island. When you exit the station look for a sign that says ‘Piscine’ (swimming pool) and walk that way. Pass the swimming pool and walk to the river which will be ahead of you, and there another sign will direct you to ‘Ile des Impressionnistes’.  Cars will come by as between you and the river there will be a road which will be rather busy, but you will be walking safely along a footpath lined with trees. Some of these will be covered in all sorts of berries, and yes, you can pick those and they will be delicious. 

After about 15 minutes you would have reached the town of Chatou, and it too is worth a quick walk through. Do pop into the church – Notre Dame de Chatou – as it is worth a visit, and you will be able to admire a sculpture of Pope John-Paul Two, or wonder what ever had come into the sculptor’s head when he had done that sculpture.  The sculptor is the Polish Bronislaw Krystof.

The Notre Dame Church of Chatou (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

Sculpture of Pope John-Paul Two in Chatou’s Notre Dome Church (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

The church has had rather a turbulent existence.

Construction of the church had begun in the 12th century, replacing a wooden church constructed in 7th century. The new structure though was partly destroyed by the English in the 100-year War towards 1346. It was reconstructed but to be yet again partly destroyed in the 11th century, to be again reconstructed. In 1925 the church was declared an Historical Monument, yet during bombing raids during WW2 the church was yet again damaged.  Since then the church has undergone further reparation and renovation. In 2002 the organ was restored and enlarged, and in 2007 the exterior was repaired, and in 2009 yet another restoration was undertaken with much success.

The town of Chatou is but small, so you will quickly be walking back the way you had come, back to the river bank that is, and soon, very soon, you would have reached Impressionist Island. More boards would have been directing you.

There are no private houses on the island today, just two restaurants and then — wait for it — a museum. This is the Fournaise Museum (Musée Fournaise) and though it is but small, each year it hosts a temporary art exhibition.

These temporary art exhibitions are always something to see: and this year’s is of the paintings of Léon Zeytline.

The exhibition is titled Bons Baiser des Paris – Love from Paris  – and as the name implies, it is all about Paris.

A Leon Zeytline painting of one of Paris’s railway station.

Léon Zeytline – full name Léon Abromovich Zeytline – was born in Moscow in 1885 and at the age of 15 began to study at the Beaux-Arts School in Moscow. Then followed a few years of travelling around Europe to fall in love with Paris and to make the City of Light his home in 1909 aged 24. He remained living in Paris painting Paris scenes – the boulevards, the restaurants, the bistros, the Opera, Moulin Rouge and other cabarets, Montmartre and so on, and he also travelled to Normandy and Brittany, there painting the most beautiful ocean scenes. Having married a woman from Alsace, the region along the frontier of France and Germany, he left Paris to settle in the town of Mulhouse. He died there in 1962 aged 77.

I love his paintings, yet I must admit that he did not achieve the success of a Monet, a Manet or a Pissarro or a Van Gogh.

You can though judge his art for yourself by visiting the Fournaise Museum on Impressionist Island.

This is how you get there:

You take the RER A1 metro line and you descend at Chatou-Croissy and you then do the walk I’ve just told you about.

Entrance to the island when walking from the Chatou station (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

The museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but open from 10 a.m. to 12.30 pm from Wednesday through to Sunday. It closes at 1 p.m. for the staff to have lunch, and then reopens at 2 p.m. to 6.p.m. At the end of October the museum closes until the next January, and it is also closed each April.

The entry fee for an adult is € 6 ($ 7.15 / £ 5.50).

Fournaise Museum (cc Marilyn Z.Tomlins)

I highly recommend that you buy a day Mobilis travel ticket.  This is a ticket which is sold by zone, and for Chatou you will need a 4-zone ticket. It will cost you € 12.40. Buy the ticket at your starting point so that you will be able to travel on it already before you get on to the RER A1 train, and the ticket is valid until midnight. And you can go to and fro on it.

From central Paris to Chatou-Croissy will take about 40 minutes. It is a pleasant ride.

When on the island you can lunch or just have a drink and a snack, or just a drink, at one of the island’s two restaurants. They are rather expensive!!

One of the restaurants on the island (cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins)

 

This is a Cafe Gourmand as served in the above restaurant (cc Marilyn Z.tomlins)

You will probably leave the island by walking back to the Chatou-Croissy station, but you can always walk across that large bridge just before the island and extend your outing to the town of Reuil-Malmaison, but it is a long long walk of 4 kms (2 miles). It’s a pleasant walk though through the streets of Reuil-Malmaison which are lined with the most elegant small mansions. 

The Paris Opera as painting by Leon Zeytline

 

Leon Zeytline’s signature as it appears on his paintings.

The island had begun to attract the attention of artists in the mid-1800, when a Monsieur Fournaise, a carpeter, had set up shop on what was still then an ununhabited island on the Seine,and had begun to make boats,  sailing having become a fashionable passtime among the bourgeoisie.

Soon artists like Monet, Sisley, Manet, Pissarro, Berthe Morisot, Caillebotte and Edgas had come to the island drawn by its beauty, setting up their easels. Also to do some boating. 

As some of the visitors wanted to overnight on the island, the Fournaise couple had opened a guesthouse – Maison Fournaise – where Madame Fournaise, an excellent cook, was serving them the most delicious meals.  

But all good things come to an end, and the artists, not one of them wealthy, had begun to die off, and the Fournaise couple too had passed on, so that in 1906 their daughter  was running the guesthouse, but on her death in 1938, and soon a world war to engulf all of Europe, the abandoned Maison Fournaise had fallen into disrepair.  In fact, the war had come very close to the island, as on August 25, 1944, Paris being liberated from German occupation, the fleeing nazis shot 27 people – civilians and members of the French Resistance – dead in Chatou.

The island had remained abandoned until 1979 when the municipal council of Chatou had decided to do something about the island’s island’s decay, and with financial aide from the French State, it had retored Maison Fournaise, and in 1982, the building, which was once the guesthouse,  was declared a national monument.

Next, in 1990, the Chatou council had created an art museum in the building – Fournaise Museum .

Zeytline’s painting of Paris’s Grand Palais Museum and the Alexandre 3 bridge.

Having a meal sitting here is a fantastic experience. 

The terrace of one of the restaurants.cc Marilyn Z. Tomlins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

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POUR L’AMOUR D’UN POÈTE

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