Sunday, 10 July 2011


Le Pont des Arts, Paris
There is at least one pair of seats - benches, really, on elaborately-cast bases - on the centre line of Paris's most romantic and beautiful pedestrian bridge, the timber-and-steel Pont des Arts.

During a tour of Paris with friends and family many years ago, we were strolling across the Pont des Arts when one of my oldest friends, the redoubtable Campbell Gordon, sprang up onto one of those benches, asked us to gather round, and said:

"I am standing on the Pont des Arts in Paris. One one side of the Seine is the harmonious, reasonable facade of the Institute of France, built as a college in about 1670. On the other bank is the Louvre, built continuously from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century: classical architecture at its most splendid and assured. Just visible upstream is the Cathedral of Notre Dame - not perhaps the most lovable of cathedrals, but the most rigorously intellectual facade in the whole of Gothic art."

He was quoting, word for word, the opening lines of Kenneth Clark's wonderful book, Civilisation - reprising, in fact, the opening scene of the television series; so when Paris comes to mind, so does Campbell, and I always have a smile.

The Institute of France
".. harmonious, reasonable facade.."

The Louvre
"..classical architecture at its most splendid and assured."

Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris
"..the most rigorously intellectual facade in the whole of Gothic art."

I wonder if it would be possible, is as few words, to beat these descriptions? My mother has a copy of Civilisation somewhere, so I'm going to dig it out and perhaps learn a few things - about writing and art.
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