Travelogue Part 9: On the Wonder of Art

I consider myself a part-time artist and full-time art enthusiast. My love of art began during my childhood. Some of my grandfather’s paintings decorate our house, and they served as inspiration to learn to draw and paint like him. Probably because my grandpa painted in the Impressionist style, it is my favorite genre of art. I love how soft the paintings look. The loose brushstrokes and implied borders make the paintings feel like a warm memory. Everything is familiar, even if I have never seen it before.

In my art history class I learned that this style originated in none other than Paris, my dream city. It was so perfect that I would be visiting Paris on my trip – I could see some of those beautiful Impressionist works in their city of origin! The Louvre is known as the best art museum in the world, so I assumed that I could find a vast collection of Impressionist works there. Much to my disappointment, the Louvre was mostly populated with boring and predictable Rennaissance and post-Renaissance paintings. I asked an employee where the Impressionist section was and she replied, “That is not here. That is at another museum.” Baffled, I wandered around the chronological section that matched the dates of Impressionism and found a scant selection of roughly a dozen Impressionist paintings. I left the Louvre dejected and irritated. How could a museum claiming to be the best in the world be lacking works from such a monumental artistic movement?

The next day, however, my travelling companion and I were sitting in Starbucks, trying to find something to fill the three hours that remained prior to leaving the city. I searched the map for nearby sites or museums, and asked her to look up one not far away. Lo and behold, it was an art museum that housed the world’s largest impressionist and post-impressionist collection. I was elated by this discovery and knew that I had to visit the museum. She was not much of an art appreciator, so I was left alone on this endeavor. I was secretly glad because that meant I could spend as much time as I wanted there without having to worry that she would grow bored. I eagerly left Starbucks and began walking as fast as I could down Rue de Rivoli. My destination was Musée D’Orsay, and my mission was simple: to view as much of their Impressionist collection as I could before my scheduled departure from Paris.

I eagerly entered the museum, procured a map, and set off immediately for the third floor where the impressionist collection awaited my arrival. When I rounded the corner into the exhibition hall, I discovered a thick crowd of tourists and fellow art appreciators. Despite the throng of people, all I could think about was the vast number of beautiful paintings lining the walls. I traversed the room almost in a daze, thoroughly eying each piece before advancing to the next. Sisley, Pissaro, Cassat, Renoir, Monet, Manet – the names went on. I was even fortunate enough to view Dejeuner sur l’herbe, the painting that started the whole movement. I was convinced that I had died somewhere in my journey here and was in art-heaven.

Already on cloud nine, I experienced an unexpected wave of emotion when I happened upon Monet’s Le Pont d’Argenteuil. It was a seemingly unassuming painting of two sailboats floating on the river with bank and bridge in the background. However, its copy hung in my family room at home. That copy had been painted many years prior by my grandfather. He was once an incredibly talented artist but is now afflicted with a degenerative disease and has lost almost all of his small motor functions. He is not able to paint or draw as he once could, and seeing this painting reminded me of that. I began to tear up a little bit at the thought of him, but in equal measure with sadness I felt great respect and awe for his talents. I was looking at the original article, but the painting hanging in my family room was nearly identical. He had captured Monet’s signature style so well. I felt honored to have such a talented man as my grandfather.

My grandfather once said that his art was his soul. In Paris, I found a little piece of that on a wall in Musee D’Orsay, and I will never forget that experience. He is responsible for my love of art and any talent that I possess. I can only hope that one day I can leave such a legacy behind to my own grandchildren.



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