No Floods In Port Marly Today
In Port Marly, most things seem to be in the past.
On the 'Route des Impressionists'
Le Port Marly:- Thursday, 25. February 1999:- Earlier today I thought I'd get a photo of the Seine's threatening flood level near Bougival, but it turned out to be nothing. Instead, I got launched on the 'Route des Impressionistes.'
This afternoon I've had to go to Port Marly. The is a sleepy place between Bougival, Marly-le-Roi and Le Pecq, lying between the river like an eel with a boil, and the busy RN 13 which goes off to Paris.
Port Marly has always reminded me of a place the river business left without notice. There are some house barges tied up, a bit of park, a couple of restaurants and cafés and a lot of real estate developer signs, promising the usual ticky-tacky in reinforced concrete.
They should be offering an 'Impressionist's Paradise' instead. The way it lies, Port Marly gets a lot of light, if the sun is shining. It is between the river and the road. I guess this is why Port Marly says it is on the 'Route des Impressionistes.'
To prove it, at one end of the little park, there is a panel with a reproduction of Alfred Sisley's 1876 painting 'Inondation à Port Marly,' showing a café being visited by boaters, with the same trees in the background as today, but without the 1876 flood.Beside the Seine in Croissy.
How important the river is to the impressionists is shown by two other Sisley paintings, 'Le Pont de Sèvres' and 'L'Ile de la Grand Jatte.' This island was also done by Georges Seurat in a big painting dated to 1884-86 - after another big painting, 'Baignade à Asnières' - done downriver in 1883-84.
Claude Monet did 'Régates à Argenteuil' in 1873. Then he moved to Vétheuil and captured the Oise there in 1878. Before Camille Pissarro moved downtown, he was painting in Pontoise in 1876.
'La Grenouillère,' on the Ile de Bougival, was painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir in 1869 and Claude Monet did one too with just about the same view, about the same time.
Jean-Baptiste-Armand Guillaumin, whose 'Soieil Couchant à Ivry' done in 1873, shows smokestacks over the Seine. He stayed for the first time at Auvers-sur-Oise in 1874 - at Dr. Gachet's.
Finally, we arrive at Vincent Van Gogh's 'L'Eglise d'Auvers-sur-Oise, painted in 1890. He painted this during his short stay with Dr. Gachet. Many Impressionists stayed with Dr. Gachet, over a long period of time.
Some of the painters known as the Impressionists painted people. Henri Toulouse-Lautrec did this, and it gives us Paris at the end of the last century.
But what was really different about the others, were the landscapes. To do these they went outside. It means they painted when the weather permitted, and this hadn't been done much before.
Alfred Sisley, painting the flood in Port Marly, has a sky full of impending rain. At Louveciennes, he painted the snow in 1878. A clear day is shown in 'La Route de Sèvres' in 1873. There is a summer village by the Seine, done in 1872.
Outside, the artists could go color-crazy. Light and shade were strong but accidental contrasts. Camille Pissarro's 'Printemps à Pontoise' wasn't going to wait for him to drag it into a studio; he had to do it fast.
Max Liebermann's 'Le Restaurant en Plein Air,' done in 1905, could have been done in the Tuileries or the Luxembourg - or at any one of several places near the Seine.
Somewhere today I have seen a map with a route on it called the 'Route des Impressionistes.' I didn't bother to memorize it; and it is not that formal anyway - its development as a theme-park is far from complete. Port Marly contents itself with a couple of panels, while Auvers-sur-Oise beats a very different drum, loudly.Alfred Sisley's flood at Port Marly on a day without clouds.
I can't remember who it is I know who lives there and invited me to visit. An artist, I suppose. He said it was well worth a visit and I will do it someday.
The Impressionists painted in other places besides west of Paris - but the biggest concentration of their favorite places is west of Paris. The ideal way to follow the 'Route' would be by boat, starting at the Pont de Neuilly and heading downstream. After Conflans, you would have to go up the Oise to Pontoise and Auvers-sur-Oise.
The brochure for Auvers-sur-Oise actually says you should start the tour in Paris, on the Grands Boulevards. Then it suggests taking the train from Saint-Lazare or Gare du Nord, or the RER from La Défense.
This is the leap-frog 'route.' The RER to Saint- Germain-en-Laye will get you close enough to Chatou, Croissy; and Port Marly is a bit out of the way. The walk from Croissy would not be too long and it would all be along the Seine. Or, after seeing the Maurice Denis museum in Saint-Germain, a walk down to Port Marly might be feasible too.
Someday somebody will get it all organized - ask at the Paris Tourist Office for what is already available - and there will be hand-held tours on the hour, every hour.
For now, you can do it yourself. Of all the places I've been today, Port Marly is a real do-it-yourself kind of place; somewhere is the middle of the 'Route des Impressionists.'
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