It’s heartening to note that the “Hearts – Romanticism in Contemporary Art” exhibit at the Musée de la Vie Romantique exhibit wasn’t just for Valentine’s Day in February. In fact, it continues until mid-July. We like that sentiment! While the heart is the universal symbol of love and romance, the exhibit also explores the torments of the wounded heart. Bringing together the works of contemporary artists, set alongside the Romantic artists from the 19th century makes for a wonderful mix. Join us as we take a look!
Set in painter Ary Scheffer’s former home and studio, the Musée de la Vie Romantique’s permanent collection is comprised of works of art from the Romantic period. In addition to many of Scheffer’s own paintings on display, they also have personal mementoes of his friends and colleagues. For example, they have items from famed writer George Sand, and her partner Frédéric Chopin, who regularly attended Scheffer’s famous artistic salons.
What defined the Romantic period, wasn’t love per se. It was more about the romantic attitude towards the past, as well as the expression of the individual and of emotion. Visitors can experience the charm of Sheffer’s house and envision what the artist’s life must have been like in the middle of the 19th century.
“Hearts – Romanticism in Contemporary Art” features the work of over 30 contemporary artists and their varied depictions of the heart. The suite of the display takes place in different buildings sometimes set amongst the pieces of the permanent collection. The exhibit is divided into the following categories: the Open Heart, the Artistic Heart, the Symbolic Heart, the Loving Heart, the Broken Heart, the Engraved Heart, and the Eternal Heart.
Though Valentine’s Day had already come and gone, it seemed that Parisians were still basking in its glow. After entering the gates of the Musée de la Vie Romantique, it was clear that everyone was out in spades! Also, right near the main entrance, there was an installation featuring brightly coloured heart-shaped pipe cleaners. In addition, the staff and security were friendly. They greeted me in both French and English. It was welcoming and cheerful from the get-go.
Because the exhibition takes place in different buildings on the property, visitors are all the more engaged. Upstairs, downstairs, then around the bends. It is a multi-levelled, multi-building, and multi-faceted exhibit, featuring contrasting works from different eras and varying mediums. For example, Gilles Barbier’s piece entitled, ‘amour éternel’, shows the image of an upside-down skull with ‘eternal love’ in the written the centre. A memento mori of love. Whereas, the otherworldly heart-shaped pink dress designed by Agatha Ruiz de la Prada evokes a sense of humour and joy. In addition, there are antique jewellery and medallions on display from the Museum’s permanent collection. All heart-shaped, of course!
When attempting to enter Ary Scheffer’s home, I quickly discovered that there was a guided tour taking place in French. Quite simply, there were many people in the small house. After having spied the lovely terrace of the Tea Salon, perhaps it was time to take a break and try my luck again later. Not only was the atmosphere lighthearted and relaxing, there was also a rare moment of sunshine.
Parisian winters fade to the greyest of greys, and yes even the City of Lights can seem bleak sometimes. It was so nice to see people relaxed and enjoying themselves. The joie de vivre was contagious. Also, very important to mention: when you order a drink, the lovely folks at the Tea Salon add a complimentary heart-shaped sugar cookie. Adorable!
Since the gift shop is cleverly located right next to the ticket booth, most people were already scoping out the wares. It did not escape my attention that they are selling heart-themed broaches by the Macon and Lesquoy. The famed duo hand embroider all of their fabulous jewellery. Along with artisanal chocolate, tea, and other goodies such as a notebook with visual representations of the heart throughout history, they also have published a book about the exhibition.
This isn’t just an exhibit for lovers, it’s for anyone who loves love and is interested in seeing it portrayed in art. Some of the artwork is sassy, and some of it dark. Others pieces are downright tacky, all the while they are paired with the elegantly simple. Something for every taste!
What’s so interesting is that this exhibit could have been very cheesy indeed. However, they pulled it off marvellously! This is possibly due to the fact that the focus wasn’t solely on the sunny side of love, romance and passion. Love, loss and death were all represented. Also, the history of the Museum, as well as the life and work of Ary Scheffer is fascinating. To sum up, it was both heartwarming and fun!
-Would recommend either arriving right when the Museum opens or two hours before closing time. Right after lunch is not the best time, trust me on that one.
-There is no need to buy tickets in advance. However, be prepared to wait in line for a few minutes at the ticket booth. Luckily all of the goodies at the gift shop are a pleasant distraction.
-The queues for the toilets were intense. If at all possible avoid it like the plague.
-Do take advantage of your visit and check out the pieces in the permanent collection!
-There’s no rush. Enjoy the exhibit, stop and smell the roses at the Tea Salon, or casually browse the gift boutique. Go back in again if there is something that has captured your imagination. Enjoy the exhibit the Parisian way! That is to say, take your time and savour the moment.
As Michael Ondaatje so elegantly wrote, “the heart is an organ of fire”. And yet, it transmutes. How lovely it was to see creative expressions of the heart! We highly recommend that you don’t miss the chance to catch this unique exhibit at the Musée de la Vie Romantique! The good news? It’s on until mid-July.
Dates: February 14 – July 12, 2020
Address: 16 Rue Chaptal, 75009, PARIS
Hours of Operation:
Tuesday – Sunday- 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Ticket price: 6€
Want to learn more about Ary Scheffer and the Museum of the Romantic Life? Please check out our article.
Looking for more things to do in Paris? Check out the Paris Pass!