French Paintings

June 15, 2015

Before coming to France, I decided that I wanted to do some research on French art, specifically paintings, and maybe compare pieces from different time periods in history. I chose to look at paintings because while I used to paint, I had never taken the time to learn more about its history.

Research for my project began in the Louvre, on our last day in Paris. I had been to the Louvre before, but I remember not having a clear idea of what I wanted to see, and simply wandered around the vast museum with my family. This time, however, I had taken a map of the Louvre from the information desk and was excited to find the rooms containing French paintings.

For the first hour or so I spent in the Louvre, I found it nearly impossible to cross from the left wing to the right, where most of the French painting galleries were located. Though I couldn’t find my way in the museum, I found this to be a great time to practice bits of French by asking for directions. After stumbling upon several of the Louvre’s main attractions such as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory, I finally found a room containing French paintings from the 19th century. These paintings all exhibited stunning realism with a dark palette, and I discovered most depicted war scenes. I then took an elevator up to the second floor where I sadly was notified that the room containing the 18th century French paintings were undergoing renovation. Luckily, I was able to view the 17th century paintings instead. Several of these shared secular themes, with quite a few paintings illustrating Christ in various settings. I was very pleased with my time spent in the Louvre, as I felt that I had witnessed a large majority of the French paintings that they exhibited.

After a lunch at the Louvre, we went to a yet another museum, the Musée d’Orsay. While not as large as the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay has many interesting qualities of its own, originally having been a train station, and now housing the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. The paintings in the museum were mostly completed in the late 19th to the early 20th century, in other words, not too long after the first gallery I had visited in the Louvre. However, the paintings in the Musée d’Orsay were remarkably different. Instead of the dark colors, and realistic portraits/war scenes found in the Louvre, the impressionists decorated their canvases with bright colors depicting beautiful landscapes, with visible brush strokes.

In this one day, I was able to find a remarkable amount of information on my project. I hope to find more later on during the trip in other regions of France!

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