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A Journey through the Art Scene of France

If you’re looking to learn more about how France became the country that we all know today, museums and art galleries are the best way to experience the its rich history. InterNations provides you with all the ins and outs of the French art scene!

At a Glance:

  • Artistic movements such as the Renaissance and Baroque have influenced the art scene in France massively.
  • Charles le Brun who was heavily praised by King Louis XIV designed various sculptures in the Gardens of Versailles, and his paintings are still found in the palace today.
  • Besides the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is home to other masterpieces, such as The Raft of the Medusa, The Last Supper, and Liberty Leading the People.
  • It took Centre Pompidou some time to get accepted by the Parisians. Today, it shows various unique exhibitions which have attracted over 180 million visitors since the opening.
  • Musée D’Orsay has been transformed from an old railway station to one of the biggest museums in Paris, showing the history of the French culture through French masterpieces.

 

In France, many artistic movements have come and gone. The country was home to a lot of great French artists and painters, including impressionist painters Claude Monet and Édouard Manet. Especially in the area of Paris, there are several museums that display the work of these and other famous French artists.

From the Renaissance to the Baroque Era

Artists from all over the world have influenced various movements in France, and these influences still have an impact on modern day museums and art galleries. The Renaissance — meaning “rebirth” — during the 16th century was one of the most popular movements. An important Italian influence was Leonardo da Vinci, bringing key paintings such as the Mona Lisa, Sainte Anne, and Saint Jean Baptiste to his neighboring country in 1516, which are now owned by Musée de Louvre. Other French artists that were active in the Renaissance were sculptors Jean Goujon, Germain Pilon, and painters Jean Cousin and Francois Clouet. If you want to see pieces of this artistic movement, a big castle in the north of Paris — Chateau d’Écouen — currently houses la Musée national de la Renaissance, with small exhibitions displaying works of many French artists from this era.

French art dating back to the 17th century is often referred to as Baroque. Not only paintings show the impact of this artistic movement, buildings also bear resemblance to the baroque style. Probably the most famous case is the Palace of Versailles, which was rebuild by Louis XIV from a small hunting lodge to a grand palace. According to the Sun King, baroque painter Charles Le Brun was the most important painter of the 17th century. He designed various sculptures in the gardens of Versailles, along with many pieces of art that are still on display in the palace. Besides Versailles, there are other museums that show works of legendary French artists.

Musée de Louvre — A Central Landmark

Not only is the Louvre one of the largest, it’s also the world’s most visited museum — with over seven million art lovers in 2016. Located in the 1st arrondissement near the Seine, the museum approximately has 38,000 objects that range from prehistory to the 21st century. The famous glass pyramid at the main entrance is an eye catcher for many tourists. And while most of them only want to see Mona Lisa, there are other masterpieces such as The Raft of the Medusa, The Last Supper, and Liberty Leading the People that attract people from all over the world.

The Louvre is a part of the Axe Historique, a 5 km architectural line through the city with big monuments like the Grand Arche of La Defence and Arc de Triomphe. Exploring the Axe Historique is a great way to both see the capital and experience a cultural tour.  

Musée National d’Art Moderne — Eyesore or Magnificent?

This modern art museum housed in the Centre Pompidou is known for its controversial architecture, built right into the center of Paris. More than 50,000 art pieces are displayed, and they attracted the highest amount of visitors in 2012, when the museum displayed an exhibition about Salvador Dali. When the museum was opened in 1977, not everyone was too happy with it. Some called it a scandal, or even an ugly duckling. The building has gradually been accepted by the Parisians, and is now as much a part of the Parisian skyline as the Eiffel Tower. The center is not only known for its famous exterior, but also for being Paris’ first easily accessible public library. Many students in Paris come to the museum to have some quiet time when studying, and make use of the library’s stock of almost 500,000 books.

In 2006, the Pompidou arts center expanded their collection to a branch in Metz, in the region Grand Est. They present a couple of unique exhibitions per year, most of them coming from the main Pompidou center. The building has one of the most complex roof structures, which was inspired by a Chinese hat. This museum is one of the best-visited cultural places in France, besides the one in the capital.

Musée d’Orsay — From Train Station to Museum

If you’re looking for the largest collection of impressionist masterpieces in the world, this museum is the place to be. It’s one of the largest art museums in Europe, displaying works from painters such as Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh. The building used to be an old railway station, and former president Georges Pompidou accepted the plan to transform Gare d’Orsay into a museum. It was opened to the public in 1986, and the exhibitions show the richest periods in the history of art. Several million people visit the museum every year.

 

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