Friday, June 24, 2011

I Louvre the Louvre

Full disclaimer.  I have unabashedly stolen the above pun from the boyfriend.  Should you want more of the same, go to his blog, which, much like him, is both funnier and more put-together than mine.  Anyway:  on to the art.

After several days of sleeping odd hours, I decided to trap myself in the Louvre all day in order to both stay awake and completely overdose on the history of art.  I emphatically succeeded in both.

How to talk about several thousand years of art history in a blog post that is even remotely interesting to read?  One way is to avoid talking about the art altogether, and simply talk about other things I saw that day. 

Global Gallery Coffee Shop needs this.
For example.  Check out this amazing, but egregiously expensive Fair Trade board game I stumbled upon!!  Fair Trade + Paris prices = quel horreur!
If only . . .
 OR!!  Check out this amazing bridesmaid dress!!  Alas, I have already put the down payment on mine, otherwise I would have to try to convince Jackie to switch to a theme that would allow this fine vestment.  Old West Bordello theme anyone??

I could tell you about Walter Benjamin, but you don't want that.
OR!!  Here I am standing in some Arcades.  I have photographed myself in a mirror thinking about Walter Benjamin, who wrote philosophically about, you guessed it, Parisian arcades.  This photo is very, very deep.  Or, should I say, reflective.  Haha.  Ahem.  On to the art.

The Louvre is very big, very crowded, and very full of very famous stuff.  I have seen it before, and even so, it still blew my mind.  There are, of course, the old chestnuts.  The stuff that you have come. Here. To. See.  

The oldest of the old chestnuts.
This is where it is at.
Let’s get her out of the way then, shall we?  No really, the Mona Lisa is in the picture.  You just have to look there, in the back, over those heads . . . I know.  Lame.  Much better is Leonardo’s Madonna of the Rocks.  I have long loved this painting.  When I teach it, I fall all over myself talking about the composition, which is really quite, quite good.  You know it is good though, because turtles always make good art.

To emulate Manet, I have made a photo about art. 

On the back of the wall of the Mona Lisa, we find a pastorale by Titian (or maybe Giorgione.  I’ve heard it both ways).  This work inspired Manet’s Déjeneur sur l’herbe, and anything that is good enough for Manet is good enough for me.  It is very difficult to look at art in the Louvre though.  I mean, really look at it.  You walk through, you snap a picture, somebody else elbows you forcefully out of the way so they can take their picture.  It is therefore difficult to really look at stuff, much less have profound, life-changing sorts of aesthetic experiences with it.  There are two exceptions:  artists and children. They actually look at stuff, and is actually lovely to watch.  Until, of course, you have to elbow a child out of the way because they are ruining your picture.  That is, of course, a joke.  In all honesty, this is actually my favorite picture I took all day.

She is as good as they say.
Cupid hand.  It's real freaky.
In addition to looking at the painting on the back of the Mona Lisa, I spent an inordinate amount of time looking at the backs of sculptures.  As such, I am probably in hundreds, it not thousands of other people’s pictures because I was the jackass obstinately standing on the wrong side of the sculpture.  But the backs of sculptures are rarely photographed, so I can’t help but walk around to see what I have been missing.
Yep.  Still no words.  Not even for the caption.
I should just say, to get it out of the way, there are two enormous rooms full of the most famous 19th century French paintings in history, from David to Delacroix.  It was amazing, and I can’t form words about it.  So.  Moving on.

Hungry tiger.
There was obviously a lot of sculpture to get excited about, but the only thing I literally jumped and squealed about (alone, in the most famous museum in the world) was a room full of Baryes.  I would argue that Antoine Louis Barye was one of the most incredible sculptors in all of history, and yet held a relatively low position in the art historical hierarchy, that of an animalier--a sculptor of animals.  Here’s an argument for Barye though--anybody with a modicum of training and talent can throw together a passable history painting.  It takes a genius to make poetry out of animals eating each other.  Just saying.

It was, at this point, that my brain exploded and I could no longer retain any memory or thought of anything else I saw that day.  I remember getting a bit angry with Marie de Medici for commissioning quite so many paintings from Rubens, and downright furious with the Louvre for stealing so much Egyptian art.  The point at which you start to think, “what--another sarcophagus?  I’ve already seen, like, 12” is the point at which it is time to leave.  Of course I did not, and instead wandered zombie-like around the museum deciding how to best phrase a strongly worded letter to the curator of the Louvre about not putting so many damn Greek pots on display.

Most times, when I go to museums, I return to my favorite things in order to take one last look, and with that last look, I always think, “Ok.  I may never see this again in my life.”  With things I really love, it is hard to step away, because you’re never quite sure if you’ve looked at it long enough, or hard enough, or felt enough about it.  So it was an astonishing moment, when I left and sat outside the pyramids of the Louvre, and knew that for at least another 2 months, I can keep going back.

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