• Crowds, Culture, and Cuisine: the Ancient and Modern City

Reflecting on the Musee d'Orsay

"Possibly one of the best days of the trip in my opinion was the day we went for a class visit to the Musee d'Orsay. I had been anticipating this visit for basically the whole trip, mostly based on the fact that my favorite type of art is Impressionist art. And the Orsay has possibly the most renowned collections of Impressionist art in the world. The day we went was the most fantastic day for city traveling because, typical of Paris in January, it was cold and rainy. However, that didn't dampen my spirits, because I was far too excited to see some of the most famous Impressionist art. We took a few trains to get to the museum and when we finally got there, our professors gave us a brief introduction of the museum and its history, and instructed us on some pieces in the museum we should look out for. We went inside the museum and received our audioguides to help us understand more about the art we were going to see. The museum was split into 4 levels, with the top floor being my top priority, because thats where all the Impressionist galleries were located. So Alec, JJ, and I went to the top floor to start our exploration of the museum.

Immediately upon arrival on the top floor I was engrossed in the artwork. There was so much color and life in these paintings, especially compared to all the "Madonna and Child" paintings that we had grown so accustomed to seeing. These paintings were so different from what we had seen in the previous cities. Their subject matter was of ordinary people, of landscapes, of nature, as opposed to battles and religious figures. And that really was a sign of the times, nobody cared about religious figures any more in art, nor did they care about the victories of the royalty in battle. It was much more personalized here. One of the first things that caught my eye in the first gallery was a sculpture by Rodin, called "The Walking Man". So I clicked the number of the piece into my audioguide and listened to what it had to say about the sculpture. Apparently this sculpture was of St. John the Baptist, but upon looking at it, you would have no idea it was St. John unless somebody told you it was. Therein lies the difference between art of previous centuries and art of the 19th and 20th centuries. In the previous centuries it would have been expected in a sculpture that there be some identifying characteristic of the figure so that the audience knew who it was. But with this Rodin piece, the focus wasn't on who the figure was, but what it was doing and representing. This piece was all about movement of the body, because the figure was in mid-stride, walking towards something or someone. Anyways, enough about Rodin. As I moved on from painting to painting, taking notes on what to say to sound intellectual in class that night, I fell more in love with the impressionist style of painting. It is just so peaceful and colorful. All the nature scenes and scenes of city streets make them a lot more digestible than some other art. The museum also housed a lot of Van Gogh and his contemporaries, so that was very cool to see, how art had progressed from Impressionism to Post-Impressionsim. Much more vibrant colors were used in Impressionist art, with less of a focus on the accurate representation of the subject, and more of a focus on color and feeling. But after a while Alec and I got a little art-ed out, so we went to a favorite crepe place in the Latin Quarter for lunch.

We had visited this place a couple of days before thanks to a recommendation by my handy guidebook, and it was so good we had to come back. The crepes were stuffed with meat, cheese, eggs, lettuce, tomato, basically anything you wanted on a cold cut sandwich in America you could get in these crepes. And man were they good. Just writing about makes me want to eat another one!"