I spent some time yesterday morning searching the internet for photos from back then of the spot where the Pyramid du Louvre stands now (and since 1988). The photo of the Louvre above pre-dates 1970. You can see the little park in the Cour Napoléon that CHM remembers (see his comments on Walt's post). His memories of Paris go back 40 years farther than mine. He grew up there. I did too, but my "French" childhood didn't start until I was 20 years old.
Above is a photo — I think I remember that it was taken in 1958 — that more closely reflects how I remember the Cour Napoléon 50 years ago. I was a student in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France, starting in January that year. When spring break from school came around, I wanted not to travel to other countries. I just wanted to go spend two weeks in Paris. And that's what I did — alone. I stayed in a hotel in the Latin Quarter. I ate one-dollar three-course meals, wine included, in little restaurants on the Boulevard Saint-Michel and on narrow streets. I remember venturing over to Les Halles on the Right Bank, where the old market stalls were being dismantled and hauled away. There was still an open-air market operating, but to my American eyes it was so gritty, grimy, and dark — it was March and the weather was gray, cold, and damp — that I escaped back to the Latin Quarter post haste. I went out to Versailles to spend a day, and as I wandered through the vast park around the palace, it started snowing huge flakes. I froze but it was memorable.
I went over the the Louvre one day. I walked through the Cour Carrée and into the Cour Napoléon where that modern glass pyramid stands today. It felt like a parking lot to me! There were some trees and there was some grass, but mostly there were cars parked all over the place, as you see in the photos above. I had a hard time finding the entrance to the museum! It was just a dark doorway and I don't believe there was even a sign indicating that it led into the museum. I was astonished. It was as if you had to know how to get into the museum before you arrived. Nobody was going to make it easy for you. The pyramid changed that. Now the Louvres projects a light and airy feel, not a dark and forbidding one.
Above is a scan of another old postcard view of the Napoleon courtyard. I'm not sure it's much newer than the first photo in this post. It's probably been colorized. France and Paris were so different back then. My impression was one of faded glory and rampant poverty. It felt third-worldish. The country had been through three great wars — invaded, occupied, bombarded — since 1870. Modernization, with features like modern bathrooms and kitchens, didn't really take hold until the 1980s. On many (but not all) levels, life is easier now than it was back then.
P.S. Here are links to three earlier posts of mine about the Louvre and the pyramid:
I am trying to recall how this looked Easter weekend 1974 when I was in Paris and we did visit the Louvre. I think it was like this, but it is not a very clear memory.ReplyDelete
I don't remember what it looked like in 1974 either. I didn't take photos back then.Delete
You beat me by 5 years Ken. My first time in Paris was 1975. The travel agent put me in the Hotel Meurice, so the exchange rate must have been really, really good or the hotel very outdated at that point. I was by myself. The Louvre was dark and had a lot of cars parked in front. Versailles was dark and had no gilded details outside yet. Because of my wonderful French teacher, and her forays into art and architecture, I was compelled to go to Chartres by bus. It was dark on the outside, but oh those glorious windows.ReplyDelete
I lived and worked in Paris from October 1974 until March 1976, so I was there when you were. The exchange rate was about 4.5 or 5 francs to the dollar, I believe. In the early '80s when the Socialist Mitterrand was elected president and appointed a few Communists as ministers in the government, the U.S. dollar soared and was worth 10 francs for a while — can't remember how long.Delete
I was in the neighborhood of the Meurice, rue de Rivoli, quite often in those days because of the WH Smith and Galignani bookstores, which sold English-language books.Delete
Looks like WH Smith is still there on the Rue Cambon. With a little tearoom/reading room upstairs. That would be a nice place to be on a cold day.Delete
Before WW2, my mother, a cousin of mine and I used to go for tea at Smith. It was very enjoyable.Delete
There was also a Brentano's bookstore on avenue de l'Opéra in Paris. It is still there, but now owned by an Iranian.Delete
I have a funny story about Smith's bookstore and tearoom.Delete
I remember the Brentano's in Paris, but I especially remember the Brentano's in Chicago.
There used to be a Brentano's bookstore in Friendship Heights on Wisconsin Avenue, acros from Saks Fifth Avenue.Delete
Oh, Ken, thanks for these!ReplyDelete
Hi, Judy, since you were interested, I gave you several lknks on Walt's blog daqy before yesterday.Delete
Thanks, chm! I hadn't seen those, so I'll go look! I appreciate it.Delete
Judy, the website ruesdeparis.com do not seem to work directly. I went to it through another one which I don't remember!Delete
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.ReplyDelete
Melinda, I don't know what happened to your comment. You said you were in Paris in 1969-70 and you had a class at the Louvre. The main entrance to the museum, you wrote, was hard to find and seemed like some kind of staff entrance. I had the same impression at that time.Delete
I'm having a lot of trouble with Blogger.
In the '40s and '50s the entrance to the museum was through the Denon Pavillon. I never had any problem then.Delete
There are advantages to being French-born.Delete
Interesting post, Ken. My Paris memories began in 1961 and they will never leave me. In 1966 I spent many happy moments in the Jeu de Paume. The first thing I saw was the Winged Victory near the entrance and I think there were steps leading up to it. I didn't return to the Louvre until the 80s when we took our kids for a visit. I'm hoping to go back one more time in 2021... BTW it was fun to reread the posts you linked;-)ReplyDelete
I think I remember the Winged Victory being in the Jeu de Paume.Delete
Why would the Victoire de Samothrace be moved from the Louvre to the Jeu de Paume?Delete
It's in the Louvre that it stands at the top of a flight of stairs. IIRC, it is the first thing you see when you enter the museum through the Denon Pavillon.Delete
C'est drôle comme la mémoire peut nous jouer des tours.Delete
Sometimes memories can be what I call "telescopic" meaning your memory brings together things or places that are far apart in time and location.Delete
My memory at 15 is much better than the one I have almost 60 years later. I remember the steps and the statue at the top- I had never seen anything like it. The Jeu de Paume in 1966 was a lot like the D'Orsay today.Delete
Now I see that my post was sloppy and it sounds like i saw Winged Victory in the Jeu de Paume, but I was trying to say the Louvre of course.Delete
Yes, Evelyn, your memory of the Victoire de Samothrace is very good and, as I recall myself, is the first thing you see when you enter the Louvre at Denon.Delete
Here we go, my second attempt to leave a message. In 1967, when I first visited the Louvre, I entered and immediately walked up steps to admire Samothrace that was lighted and at the top of the steps. I had my Canon 35mm which I manually set for an open aperture then walked backwards until I felt I had it framed and then held my breath for the 10 seconds to take the photo. It came out in focus which I know I would be unable to do at present!ReplyDelete
It was in the Louvre propre, not far from the entrance.
Mary in Oregon