Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Art that Draws You In: A Visit to the Louvre

Having just returned from five days in Paris over Thanksgiving, and feeling fully recovered from the jet lag, I figure it's finally time to post something. I apologize for being absent this month... my travels in November have taken me all over the place - Wisconsin, Florida, and now France! I have much that I could write about, but for today I thought I'd talk about the Louvre.

Ah, the Louvre.

I first visited the Louvre when I was sixteen, during a whirlwind tour of Europe with a group of high school student ambassadors. I wouldn't really consider us "ambassadors" at that age. We were loud and obnoxious, like all teenagers are, except that we were also American, which made it ten times worse. But for me, it was different. While the other kids laughed and made fun of art they couldn't understand, I stood before the masterpieces in silent reverence and waited for the art to speak to me. These were some of history's finest examples of human creativity. I may not have understood them (and I wasn't convinced yet I wanted to be an artist), but they still resonated with me. The paintings, especially, filled me with both an inexplicable joy and a painful desire that I could not explain at the time. I know now what I was feeling. It was the call. You see, we are all called to do something with our lives, using the talents God has given us. The great artists of the past were inviting me to join them in their blessed vocation... maybe even join them someday on those walls. I don't know if I'll ever be great, like them. I just know it's my life's work to try.

That tour group long ago never led us through the longest passageways or most obscure corners of the Louvre. But last week, my husband and I flew to Paris together and spent our first two days there exploring this wonderful museum. We walked until our feet ached, but I didn't take a second of it for granted.

One of the things I enjoy most about visiting art museums is that you can use it as a chance to affirm and re-evaluate your personal taste in art. My husband and I were both drawn to different works, because we have different reasons why we like a particular piece. I found that my taste has shifted a little over the past several years, mostly because my painting style has changed from something very classical and laborious to more of an alla prima method. I like art that "breathes" without looking forced, contrived, or overworked. I also love when it looks as though a painting could have been done in one sitting (though most of the pieces in the Louvre took much longer than that, considering the monumental sizes of some of them!). Yet, Bouguereau still takes my breath away, as do Ingres, Gericault, and Caravaggio. Most of all, I love portraits. I am drawn to a portrait from the other side of a room, and will go there first before taking a look at nearby still lives or landscapes. People are what captivate me most. Fashion, landscape, architecture and decor... all these things change and tell a lot about the time period in which a work of art was created, but human beings remain essentially the same. Ah, what an amazing calling it is, to paint portraits!

Below is just a small sampling of artworks we enjoyed seeing at the Louvre. In my next post, I'll talk about the Musee d'Orsay and the Rodin Museum. :-)

Ingres: "The Bather of Valpincon"

Sir Henry Raeburn: "Little Girl with Flowers"
or "Innocence, Portrait of Nancy Graham" 

In front of Vermeer's "Astronomer"

 Gericault: "Portrait of Colin Alexander, Painter"

Vigee LeBrun: "Self Portrait with Daughter"

Joos van Craesbeek: "The Smoker"

In front of one of the most
magnificent sculptures ever:
The Winged Victory





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