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Walking Over Haddon in The Peak District

I confess I'm a fair weather walker, which means I often want to walk on our holidays, but whether we go is always dependent on the weather. I have a Goretex jacket but it's like a talisman. I own it, but I don't want to wear it and I hope vainly that just by having spent so much on it an schlepping it with me that it's going to ward off the rain! As you can see my travel planning involves a good deal of "magical thinking!" In California our cultural exuberance (paired with low standards) means we shamelessly call anything a "hike"  - as if we've scaled Everest in an afternoon. Here in England I'm not sure I even qualify as a "walker" because that denotes a level of seriousness I've failed at previously. Minimally it means you're wearing boots  and have an Ordnance Survey map (and possibly a compass) in your back pocket. I guess I'm more of stroller to be honest and I've blogged about my strolls all over the world; m…

Palais de la Porte Dorée, Paris

We spent a fascination couple of hours out at the Palais  de la Porte Dorée which houses  the National Museum of Immigration History (or Cité Nationale de l'histoire de l'immigration) as well as the aquarium, which we didn't visit. The Palais  de la Porte Dorée is a magnificent building with a spectacular  carved facade and several interior rooms decorated with extraordinary murals reminiscent of the WPA murals in the United States. There is so much to talk about the whole visit that I'll probably break it up into three posts, one on the front facade, one on the interior murals and one on the museum.
Here you can see the building with a modern art installation in the foreground.
Built for the Colonial Exposition of 1931 the Palais  de la Porte Dorée combines several stylistic influences within an Art Deco package. The plain modernist columns contrast with the richly carved frieze behind which is suggestive of  classical temple decoration. The signs suggested that the overall layout of the building, with its central courtyard was inspired by the Moroccan architectural vernacular but it wasn't obvious to me! 
The frieze is unlike anything I've seen before in both scale and subject. The entire facade is clad in a decorative sculptural stone relief illustrating the economic contributions of the colonies. France sits in the center above the main doorway with the wealth of the colonies at her feet. Africa is on the left and Asia her right. As the sign notes, "The sculptural style of the 1920's ad 1930's was used for imperial propoganda: muscular and imposing figures, wild and lush nature, ethnic faces that were recognizable and simplified according to the ethnographic codes of the day." 
Images of place and product predominate with names of colonial and French cities carved into the bas-relief, see Dahomey and huile (or oil) above and Marseille below.
The density of the decoration is mesmerizing and when you stand looking up at it you see more and more jumping out from the lush vegetation and the jumble of bodies. This is propagandistic art at its best, I can't put it better than the sign which reads, "Every detail and every aspect of the decoration brings the colonies to mind and pays tribute to the Empire that binds them together."

Commodities can be picked out including, silk, cotton, rice and coffee from Asia.
Africans and Asians are defined by their physicality, represented as half naked vigorous  workers they contrast with the symbolic representations of France which tends towards the classical. As you can see below the images of metropolitan France evoke the classical world,  knowledge, power and position rather than mere physical strength.
The details are captivating including this underwater scene suggesting the length and breadth of colonial power, from sea to sky. 
In summary the building is extraordinary and should be on your list of places to go, particuarly if you're interested in French Art Deco.

If you liked this you might like my post on the Courtauld's Art Deco Palace at Eltham outside London or this post on Finnish Art Nouveau.

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