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149 Paintings You Really Should See in Europe — France

149 Paintings You Really Should See in Europe — France

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149 Paintings You Really Should See in Europe — France

59 pages
30 minutes
Oct 16, 2013


This chapter from Julian Porter’s essential companion to all the major European museums and galleries discusses some of the greatest paintings to be found in the museums and galleries of France. His passion for art began with the seven years he spent as a student tour guide in Europe. In this segment he visits Paris and discusses works by masters such as Delacroix, David, Renoir, Manet, Degas, and many more.

In the usually pretentious arena of art connoisseurs, Porter’s voice stands out as fresh and original. He finds the best of the best, which he describes with entertaining irreverence, and spares you hours of sore feet and superfluous information.

Oct 16, 2013

À propos de l'auteur

Julian Porter is a litigation lawyer whose other passion in life is art. He’s had a lot of fun looking at art and wants to share his enthusiasm with others. He has lectured in galleries from Madrid to St. Petersburg. He lives in Toronto.

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149 Paintings You Really Should See in Europe — France - Julian Porter



Exploring the museums of France requires a bit of a juggling act. You must exercise discipline and not get drawn into the seemingly endless collections of paintings so that you have the time and focus to really see the truly great ones. You also must plan carefully to avoid the punishing lineups and lengthy waits. And, at the same time, you must ensure that you make the time to take in the stunning interiors and exteriors of the galleries and their surroundings.

The Louvre is an architectural treasure. It was built in the twelfth century as a fortress to protect the western edge of Paris. It was transformed into a royal building in the fourteenth century; however, it took the reign of Louis XIV (1643–1715) to turn it into a sumptuous, treasure-filled royal residence. During the French Revolution, the Louvre was transformed once again — this time into a public museum that had, at its core, the deposed royal collection. Napoleon’s military conquests then added to the collection.

In the courtyard of the Louvre, enclosed by traditional public architecture, there is a glass pyramid over the main entrance. This was created by I.M. Pei in 1988. The Pyramid creates a sense of vitality and livens up the elegant yet staid architecture around it.[1]

The Musée d’Orsay, which is across from the Jardin des Tuileries, is architecturally so remarkable that the paintings it holds almost pale when compared to the building itself. Built as a train station to accommodate traffic for the 1900 world’s fair, it served as the terminus of the southwestern French railway network until 1939. After 1939, with the arrival of newer, longer trains that needed longer platforms than the building could accommodate, the station began to serve only the suburbs. Transformed into a museum in 1968, this building — which was once filled with engines — now houses the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces.

For a truly special viewing experience, the Musée de l’Orangerie cannot be beat. Soft benches and uniquely shaped rooms combine to give visitors a sense of sitting directly in the midst of Monet’s Water Lilies.

Whether larger (such as the Louvre) or smaller (such as the Jacquemart-André), the museums of Paris are well worth the balancing act they require.


21. Death of the Virgin

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da, 1605

Louvre, Paris

Photo: Erich Lessing / Art Resource, NY

This painting is just before a large marble urn in the middle of the long hall of the Grande Galerie in the Denon wing of the Louvre, on the right.

I deal with Caravaggio’s life in Chapter 4.

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