A Girl Goes to Paris

The Louvre

I recently made my husband take me joined my husband on a business trip to Paris.  His job requires travel to Europe, and I'd never been to France.  With my French-Canadian roots, some knowledge of French, a love of art & history & wine & cheese, I was happy to come meet him for a long weekend in Paris. 

I warned him that I had a serious art agenda.  This might not be the exclusively "romantic, walk along the Seine" kind of weekend.   Since he had to work for part of the time that I was there, I made plans to begin my trip by going to the Louvre solo and spend the entire day there. 

The Louvre, for those who haven't been, is massive.  It's hard to wrap your head around how physically big it is,  and how much art it holds.  It is truly a marathon event, and a bit of planning and strategy goes a long way toward getting more out of the experience.  
 Outside of the Louvre, the famous Pyramid by architect I. M. Pei.  

 The main courtyard.

 Walking up the stairs toward the Winged Victory of Samonthrace sculpture.
I loved how they placed her at the top of the stairs, one of the first experiences upon entering the Louvre. 

As I walked through the massive galleries of medieval art, I landed upon a painting that is near and dear to me.  This, my friends, was one of my first art experiences when I was a child. 

 An Old Man and His Grandson
by Dominico Ghirlandaio
When I was a preschooler I came across this image in one of my uncle's school text books.  I was fascinated.  What a strange painting!  That old man's nose was so bumpy and a bit scary, but his expression is kind.  I thought it was a picture of a young girl, and was surprised when someone told me it was a boy.  Then there was the wonderful and strange landscape out the window.  This was the first time I really got lost in a painting, having the experience unfold before me.  


The crowds continued to move around me while I enjoyed this painting.  It was so great to see the real thing.  I felt that way many times over while here.
 Then I joined the throngs and went in search of the Mona Lisa.  
This is about as close as you can get to her now.  There is no intimate art viewing when it comes to the world's most famous smile. 

After the DaVinci, I went in search for a William Turner painting that I knew was nearby.  It was great to have it mostly to myself, as the painting was in a little side gallery, away from the crowds.  I enjoyed examining it up close.  Here's a detail.  What I love is the scumbling and motion of the paint application.  You can see the wonderful combination of opaque and transparent layers, all coming together in a way that is purely abstract up close.  Great sense of atmosphere. 

I also enjoyed this wall of Rembrandt's in relative peace and quiet. 

In a place such as the Louvre, when it is bigger than words, when there is so much to see and take in... how do you carve out that experience that allows you to slow down?  To really see.  
My first view of the Mona Lisa was not the experience of the painting.  It was a sea of people holding up their digital cameras & phones.  They were all taking the "I've been there, done that" photo.  Honestly, if it was for the sake of enjoying the image of the Mona Lisa, everyone would have been better off slowing down, enjoying the painting up close, and buying a post card in the gift shop. 

What a different experience to find an image that stops you in your tracks and lose yourself in it, even for just a little while.