Last weekend I visited Paris with my Art History class which was a treat because our professor accompanied us as our museum guide. We visited three art museums but I’ll only discuss two because the third was more particular about photos. The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay allowed photos with no flash but the Orangery didn’t allow any and their room minders were a tad overzealous about keeping people away from the art anyway. I liked the artwork but not the museum atmosphere. Alas, I find that this is often case in smaller museums.
We started at the Musée d’Orsay which houses a wonderful collection of impressionist art. The museum itself is a work of art. It was built in 1898 as a grand railway station and at the time was considered state-of-the-art with glass ceilings and steel construction. Later, the building served many purposes and was finally converted into a museum in 1986. It sits on the left bank of the Seine and houses French art but since they had some Van Gogh, who was Dutch, I think they must define “French Art” loosely. I believe the Van Gogh paintings in the museum were painted in France so perhaps that’s what counts.
The history of Impressionism in a nutshell…for about 400 years there was a conservative stranglehold on art in France. A group called the Académie des Beaux-Arts functioned to preserve art in a manner acceptable to the King(s) pretty much keeping art in France in a Baroque rut from about the late 1600’s. So nothing but Rubenesque art being cranked out year after year. Click here to see that rascal Rubens and learn more about Baroque art. To have your art shown in the grand exhibitions it had to be reviewed and approved by this group. The group did not approve of political statements or new techniques. They did approve of historical scenes, real or imagined, battles, naked Venus’, Kings/Queens, portraits, and religious art painted with “tight” brushstrokes and technique. Very little changed in the intervening years because artists had to make living after all, didn’t they?
In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s some artists who were already popular or well-heeled started to change this with non-traditional subject matter while the paintings themselves were only somewhat different in technique than “approved” artworks. Later, when Monet and Renoir, etc hit the scene they were vilified for their style and subject matter selections. They struggled to make a new way and some, such as Renoir, moved to a slightly tighter, less loose technique later in his career due to some reflection based on the prevailing climate of disapproval. Others either persevered or went out in a blaze of glory/gory (drugs, drink…etc). The Impressionists, by the way “Impressionist” was considered to be an insulting description of their style at the time that they only embraced later in their careers, anyway, the Impressionists didn’t receive recognition until later in their lives and careers (for those that lived long, such as Monet).
Here are a few shots of some of the paintings I liked a lot and that are also famous. Some that I also liked a lot didn’t come out so well in photographs so I am not able to show them to you.
We walked ALL DAY in the Louvre which of course meant we barely scratched the surface. We saw a number of sculptures, paintings and even some painters.
The Louvre is a huge building which sits on the right bank of the Seine and is not far from the Musée d’Orsay. Originally, it was a fortress built in the 12th century. We were able to see some of the original fortress walls while we were inside the museum which was later used as a palace and expanded over the years until it was converted into a museum. It is one of France’s most loved national landmarks. Inside there are multiple floors, wings, an inverted glass pyramid and even a food court with a McDonalds and more than one Starbucks.
We started with sculptures, below. My favorite was the Winged Victory/Nike piece. By the way, please don’t anyone sculpt me because sooner or later the nose would come off and that always looks so creepy.
We also saw some Michaelangelo paintings but I’ll have to go on record to say I like his sculpture but his paintings do not thrill me at all.
The most famous painting housed in the Louvre is the Mona Lisa. Naturally, it is a lovely painting and Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius in so many ways. It may not be the best painting ever though and only really became famous after being stolen a couple of times. Did you know that Leo thought of himself first as an engineer and last as a painter? Ya, neither did I.
I also didn’t know that you can paint inside the Louvre. Ya, with permission of course, you can copy a masterpiece. To do so you have to submit your portfolio to show you are a serious artist and they require that you change the painting somewhat. These guys were fun to watch. What a neat experience to paint inside the Louvre!
Some additional art I saw.
Gotta love the Dutch Masters!
À bientot! JW~~