I can’t leave Paris without saying something about art and literature. I wish I knew more about art. I know what I like when I see it, but I am far from being an expert on any artistic movement. I would say what I know the most about and teach in class is the Hudson River School, which happens in America in the 1820s-1840. However, you cannot come to Paris and not be impressed and want to learn more about art. I am much stronger is literature. History and Literature go hand in hand and I often assign novels in class to help students understand the time period we are discussing. While in Paris there were several locations that I visited that dealt with art and literature, some of it even had an American connection.
My first excursion was to the Montmartre district. It is the highest area in Paris and became home to the struggling artists of the early 1920s like Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Gustave Moreau and Pablo Picasso. America played a part here as young bohemian American artists and writers made their way over in the 1920s. As for me personally, my university, USAO, holds a chalk are festival every year named the Montmartre chalk art festival after this area. Each year in April the entire parking lot in the oval is shut down as professional and amateur artists turn the parking lot into chalk masterpieces. Today Montmartre is full of artists trying to earn a living. The main edifice you notice when you reach the top is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart which is worth entering, but the real prize is the view of the city.
My second excursion was to Giverny, the home of one of France’s most famous painters and one that I can say I am a fan of Claude Monet. Bought in 1883 this home marked the second chapter of Monet’s life after he had achieved some fame for his work. He spent his time painting and working on the beautiful gardens. He created a traditional garden but also a Japanese garden and became fascinated by Japanese’s art and culture. I was surprised how much Japanese art was in his home. It was his Japanese garden where he drew his inspiration for his paintings of water lilies. Below are a few pictures of his gardens as well as his Water Lilly paintings so you can see his inspiration.
Finally, with literature, Paris became the second home to an entire generation of writers. I believe there are two great literary time periods in American history, the Transcendentalists, and others in the 1820s-1840s and the Modernists and other writers in the 1920s and 1930s. For these Modernists writers known as the “lost generation” Paris became their muse. The most famous of these writers, Earnest Hemmingway frequented many of the café’s we visited and at one of them is where he wrote The Sun Also Rises. We visited one of his favorite books stores the Shakespeare and Company. I am standing in a similar spot as Hemingway and his friend Silvia Beach.