This is the fourth story in a four-part series
about the 15th anniversary trip my
artist wife and I took to Paris.

Henri Émile Benoît Matisse was a French visual artist; a painter known for his use of colour. 

His was a name I would have recognized from my university Art History textbook had I ever cracked it open. Instead, I recognized his name as one of my artist wife’s top influencers.

Like a diligent husband of an artist, I did my research before we went to Paris. Quickly, I learned he has zero paintings in The Louvre. In fact, most of his famous paintings are in his own national museum, Musée Matisse, located 900 km away in Nice on the Mediterranean coast of France.

Nonetheless, Matisse still has many paintings at other Paris art museums, including one a stone’s throw from The Louvre.

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Musée de L’Orangerie is a long, narrow, glass building. It was named after its previous use as an orange-tree greenhouse before being converted into an art museum. 

This long glass building sits stoically alongside the right bank of the Seine River. Containing major 20th century paintings not contained in The Louvre, the Musée de L’Orangerie was among the top museums on my artist wife’s must-see list.

On this morning, we opted to jump into an Uber at our hotel. Following a vehicular adventure through the Paris streets that left my wife begging to jump back onto the e-scooters we had been riding for days, we were dropped off across the Jardin des Tuileries from the museum.

Garden is a misnomer for the park area, however. It was more like Central Park than a modest garden. So, after hoofing it across this so-called garden, we walked up to the front doors of the museum.

She had pre-purchased our tickets for the day. Fortunately, she had also remembered them. (Hard not to since they were digitally downloaded to her phone. Maybe The Friends of the Louvre Society should look into that. Just saying.)

As we entered, I was excited to help her find Matisse’s work quickly. After all, I’m a bit of an expert in viewing an entire art collection quickly. 

However, before I could do that, she pumped the brakes.

“I need to see Monet’s Water Lilies,” she said.

Nodding politely, I was left disappointed my Matisse hunt was being put on the backburner and that this museum visit would be longer than I had hoped.

I had never heard of this famous series of oil paintings until her statement. Fortunately, I had more than enough time to read through their Wikipedia page while my artist wife stood in front of each 40-foot panel appreciating whatever it is that she appreciates while standing in front of paintings.

My artist wife spending time — lots of time — in front of one of Monet’s “Water Lilies” paintings.

After about 20 minutes of reading the Wikipedia page, catching up on my emails, and writing part of this Saturday Morning Story, we were off to see the rest of the museum’s collection, including Matisse.

As we walked downstairs to the main collection, I put my art-speed-viewing expertise to work and hunted hidden Matisse treasure.

Twenty-seven seconds later, I struck gold.

Matisse pieces were hung along the main hallway of the collection. 

I beckoned eagerly to my artist wife while feverishly pointing at the paintings closest to her and drawing unnecessary attention to myself from other museum patrons.

As my artist wife walked over while thinking of ways to hide her face and distance herself from associating with this over-eager museum patron, she gave the first two Matisse paintings the quick once-over.

There was no long pause for her to take in Matisse’s work. No endless moments to mull what she was viewing.

There was no long pause for her to take in Matisse’s work. No endless moments to mull what she was viewing. And no emotion at seeing — for the first-time ever in person — a Matisse painting.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

“I don’t like his earlier work as much,” she said bluntly.

My over-eager bubble burst. 

Nonetheless, undeterred,  I rounded the corner and found several more of Matisse’s paintings. Of course, I had no idea what was “early Matisse” and what wasn’t.

So, the same scene repeated itself as I beckoned her over amid  handfuls of museum patrons staring curiously at these and other paintings.

Same result. These were Matisse’s early works. She had little interest.

Turns out, my pre-Paris research was incomplete. I had neglected to find out which era of Matisse’s work had influenced her. Because, I totally would have thought to ask.

Nonetheless, lesson learned. Art History is important, and cracking that textbook might have helped.

Then again, at least I learned what Water Lilies are. Besides, who needs a textbook when you’ve got Wikipedia and an artist wife who takes her sweet time at art museums.

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