The Tuileries is a most splendid, formal expanse of greenery just adjacent to the magnificent Louvre. Located near the site of a Catherine de’Medici palace that burned to the ground in 1871, these gardens, last transformed by Le Notre, who also worked his landscaping magic at Versailles, strike the neo-classical notes of geometric order and aesthetic formality; paths here are straight, trees are aligned -- all is calculated. At the center of the city, the gardens with bubbling fountains and vast pond surrounded by benches draw visitors and natives alike. On the autumn day we visited, the crowd was very large, in part because the Louvre was closed due to the museum workers’ strike, but also because this spot is very appealing with colorful flowers and a glorious surrounding vista, especially to the east and west as planned by the visionary Haussman.
Adjoining the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries is a "people’s" meeting place amidst all the pomp and glory of France’s monarchical and imperial past. Formerly the royal gardens exclusive to the palace built on land that was originally the site of tile-works (tuileries), a palace that was burnt down during the tumultuous Paris Commune days, today, with its Ferris wheel and many areas for relaxation, it is truly a people’s garden at the core of the city.
This is an "open-air" museum of statues, with sculptures by Marly, Van Cleve, Coustou, and Le Paultre. The presence of sculptures in the parks developed under Haussmann was intended to provide artistic experiences to the populace of Paris at large; in effect, the Parisian parks are unusually attractive for lovers of this art. Even if most museums are closed, visitors can see sculptural art throughout Paris.
Twenty sculptures by Aristide Maillol were given to the gardens by Dina Vierny, who modeled for the master for many years, and has become a preserver of his legacy, establishing the Museum Maillol (www.museummaillol.com), a private museum she opened in 1995 on Rue de Grenelle. Romantically, they met after Maillol sent a letter to the then 15 year old Vierny. In that letter, he wrote that he had heard from friends that "You are a Maillol or a Renoir," and that he would like to see which of the alternatives was true. Throughout his long life (1861-1944), Maillol chose to sculpt the female figure and Vierny became his model for works subsequent to their eventual meeting. This May-December relationship from 1934 till his death ten years later engendered Vierny’s loyal espousal of the task of promulgating his distinctive works. By giving the city these sculptures, I think she shrewdly chose maximum exposure for his work. Reading about their relationship after seeing his Tuileries sculptures has inspired me to list the museum as a "must-see" for our second trip to "The City of Light," as it contains works by Picasso, Kandinsky, and Matisse, and displays other works by Maillol in painting, drawing, and engraving.