Thursday, August 14, 2008

As requested, here are some of my European photos. These were taken with a 35mm camera in the eighties. I've scanned the prints, so the quality isn't superb and the colors have dimmed, but perhaps they'll do the job!

I've also attached an excerpt from Mazurka, fourth in the LeGarde series and about to be released by Twilight Times Books. It's a break in the action - a tour of the Musee D'Orsay, in Paris. Scroll down to the bottom to find it.


Stein Am Rhein







Cross country skiing near Muelhausen, in the Schwabian Albs

Houses in Denkendorf

Notre Dame, Paris

Rainy Paris Street


The Seine

Notre Dame (see what I mean, Steve?)

Cabbies in Vienna (Wien)

My wife, Dale, in Paris

Me, in Paris, about age 33.

Excerpt from Mazurka:

We entered the Orsay Museum when the doors opened at 9:00. After paying for our tickets, we sauntered hand in hand through the grand, light-filled building to the Impressionist collection on the upper level, surprised the hall was relatively quiet. I'd expected that this collection of unequaled masterpieces would be mobbed all hours of the day.

Maybe everyone’s headed for the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa?

I chuckled, but quickly forgot my quirky inner thoughts when I spotted one of my all-time favorites, Jeune Filles au Piano by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Two charming sisters leaned toward sheet music propped on a piano. Long, silky locks rippled down their backs. Pastel bows carefully fastened their hair, capturing the slim plaits whispering across their cheeks. The golden-haired sister perched on a piano bench, her graceful right hand on the keyboard. She bore a faint resemblance to my daughter, Freddie. The pretty brunette leaned over her sister’s shoulder, carefully inspecting the music. Their faces were delicately drawn, their skin creamy white. Innocence leapt from the page. The soft whirls of Renoir’s paintbrush had captured youthful virtue so succinctly that I was unable to tear myself away. Even the background enchanted me. Feathery oranges and greens depicted heavy drapes that provided a soft backdrop for Renoir’s subjects. I knew this painting well and had enjoyed it from many a source, but the immediacy of standing directly before the original dazzled me.

Camille touched my arm and brought me back to earth.

“Look,” she whispered reverently. “The Swing.”

We sidestepped to the next offering. Renoir’s depiction of a sun-dappled afternoon hung before us. Two young men in straw hats and jackets flirted with a young lady who stood on a wooden swing. I imagined the drops of sun playing across her long white dress as she swung slowly back and forth. She wore pale pink flowers in her upswept strawberry-blond hair and responded coyly to her suitors’ teasing with downcast eyes.

We meandered slowly through the rest of the Renoir exhibit, enjoying each piece as one greets an old friend. We paused at Le Moulin de la Galette and enjoyed the sun-speckled depiction of the outdoor café, where companions socialized and danced in the splendor of the afternoon sun. Ornate, white-painted iron gas lamps stood in the background, offering their delicate glass globes to the heavens.

We shuffled slowly past the La Danse à la Campagne and La Danse à la ville, both painted in 1883. Just before we left the Renoir exhibit, I stopped before an unfamiliar work.

It was clearly Renoir, but the bucolic riverside view had never found its way into the Impressionist calendars or coffee table books in my collection. I moved closer to the painting, dazzled by the sense of movement that flowed from its vibrant brush strokes. Golden-green grasses swayed by the riverside, distinctly undulating in the moist river breeze. White clouds rolled overhead across the outlet where the blue river merged with the sea. I wondered if Renoir had picnicked on this airy riverbank as he captured the scene for all eternity.

Spellbound, we moved into the Degas gallery and stopped to admire the bronze figure of the ballerina, Grande Danseuse, sculpted in 1881 by the master. A cast bronze corset anchored an authentic taffeta skirt. The young dancer’s proud face thrust forward in a nearly arrogant expression as she positioned her slim arms behind her.

Next, we strolled to paintings of vivid horse races, marveling at the artist’s ability to capture the excitement of the racing field. Dancers and bathing women covered the walls. Degas worshipped each woman through his honest depiction of her daily activities.

We reached the hall that featured our mutually favorite artist, Claude Monet. We lingered for a long time before the paintings of the artist’s gardens in Giverny, France. I stood, hypnotized, before the works of the genius who so deeply loved nature and light, and turned to Camille.

“You know the large perennial garden on the south side of our house?”

“Mmm hmm,” she answered.

Her eyes were glued to the painting as she luxuriated in the flow of colors bathing her senses.

“Elsbeth and I designed it to match this painting. Grape-colored bearded iris and red poppies. Of course it’s not even close, but that was our intent.”

“I can see it,” she said graciously, smiling and tilting her head to the left. “I thought it looked familiar.”

Our short visit ended with the massive water lily studies that sparkled from the walls. I imagined floating in a rowboat past the dripping weeping willows and sliding beneath the delicate Japanese bridges spanning the sun-drenched lily pond.

“Next time,” I said, “we need to allow several days to spend here, and then we’ve got to visit the gardens in Giverny. They’ve redone them, you know, and have replicated the original designs that Monet planted. Lily ponds and all.”

“Really?” she asked. “I’ll bet they’re gorgeous.”

Her stomach growled loudly, causing a few heads to turn. She blushed. We’d been gazing at the precious artwork for five hours - it had seemed like minutes. But a quick recheck of the time showed it was indeed nearly two o’clock. We still planned to visit Chopin’s residence and take a short tour in the famous Catacombs that snaked beneath the city.

“Hungry?” I asked.

She nodded. I was ravenous, and gladly took her arm to rejoin the thronging crowds on the streets of Paris.


Jude Hardin said...

Looking pretty dashing there in Paris, Aaron. I can almost remember being 33. LOL!

Awesome photos. I'm telling you, you should be making money with a camera.

Great excerpt too! said...

I remember this scene. I googled the paintings and studied them for a while. Europe is a beautiful continent. I'd like to see it some day.

Anonymous said...

I love your photos. Yes, that picture sure looks familiar. Strange how different folks think alike. Could we be long lost twins(chortle) Enjoy the excerpt.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Jude.

Thanks! Glad you liked the photos. Yeah, it was twenty years ago - my beard was so long, dark, and thick! Ha! Now it's just a gray and black short thing. Too funny.

I wish I knew how to make some money on the photos - does anyone have ideas? I know you can set up image downloadable sites where folks purchase your poster art, so to speak, but need to investigate.

Hi, Val!

Glad you remembered this scene. It's really not representative of the book (there's so much action, elsewhere), but it was a nice pause where I could remember the visit and extol some of my favorite artists' virtues. I thought it went with the photo gallery, too. ;o)

Steve! My long lost twin! Hey, it's gotta be. Who else could take the same photo and decades later connect to compare them? Very cool, doncha think? Thanks, bud.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic photos, Aaron. The connection between your Notre Dame and Steve's shot are incredible.

Some of your photos remind me of when I used to tour Europe taking British tourists.

Thanks for the memories.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Hi, Pete! And welcome! Touring Europe with British tourists sounds like Heaven, even if you were the tour guide. I used to think that would be a wonderful career - but we were more the settling down in the country with kids, gardens, and animals types of folks. ;o) Thanks for stopping by!