Friday, November 18, 2011

Egalité, Fraternité, and Especially Liberté : Free Patrimony=Foreign Exchange Student Win!

Greetings again from France, y’all!  Sporting my red boots, a new pair of longhorn-cow-shaped earrings, and HUGE bags under my eyes from all of the tests I’ve had to take this week, I’d like to share with you an amazing discovery.  I was super-excited because I found out that on Thursday, starting at 7 p.m. and lasting until midnight (just like everything else interesting to do in France, it doesn’t start until after the sun goes down, and usually not until around 10 p.m.), the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Angers was free to enter for students. 

Stoked, I tell you, stoked.  

And why was I super-stoked in particular?  Because even though I am a student, I was too OLD to get in for free at all the cool stuff in Paris.  But at this museum, they didn’t bother to check my birthdate. 
This meant that I could actually get all nerdified for art, and this time, for FREE!
Free’s fun.  You know this if you’re a student, and especially when you’re a student paying your own way.
So to lavish on my experience, I will talk about all of the cool things I saw.  For.  FREE.  Ahem. 
First of all, let me just point out the fact that Anger’s Musée des Beaux-Arts was ranked as one of the top five best kept secrets in ALL of France according to my Lonely Planet travel guide.  I would suggest to any/every one that if you’re even thinking about studying abroad, look at some travel books.  Except maybe AAA’s, unless you either a)like Winnebagos or b) are over forty.  Just saying.  Between my own experiences with travel guides, along with talking to other people who have traveled a lot, Lonely Planet is pretty good, and you can find others that are good, too, based on Internet recommendations.  Also, just to further focus on my love of stuff “gratuit,” you can often find stuff in these guide books or online to do for fun, from visiting historic places and seeing a bunch of cool historic stuff, to art exhibitions, to other stuff—for free.

So, onto the free-dom!  

Going into the museum, I was excited to find a temporary exhibit of Jacques Villon, brother of Dadaist/Surrealist artist Marcel Duchamp.  Oh, you know Duchamp, he’s the French guy who either 1)just went out and bought a urinal at a 1917-style Home Depot, or 2) painstakingly created a urinal by hand.  He slapped his signature on this thing, and called it “Fountain”, which started a movement of works of art entitled “Ready-Mades”.  My personal favorite is his The Large Glass, also named The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.  But it’s not necessarily the work itself that I love so much about this piece, it’s the history: after spending almost 10 years creating this thing, Duchamp felt that it was missing something as a finishing touch, so he named the piece Untitled in 1923.  Years later, in 1969, something happened to the glass during shipping, and it sent a HUGE crack through the whole thing.  That, according to Duchamp, was apparently the finishing touch, and he fixed the glass so that it would remain intact, and now, the finished product looks like this: 

Going back to Jacques Villon, his exhibition was not to my particular taste (I don’t really care much for Cubism, but hey, that’s just me), but I did thoroughly enjoy a small, Toulouse-Lautrec style drawing, and this self portrait:

Since I had to hurry through the museum in order to take a Grammaire test early the next day, I may try to go back soon, but in the meantime, if you get a chance to go see these works yourself in person, or online, let me point out a few works that I found particularly interesting:
A  Venitian painting with creepy smiley people and a random cat,

A huge painting with this angel in it, where you can see where the artist TOTALLY messed up and painted a new face on top of the old one!  Can you see the second pair of eyes just below and to the left under the angel’s skin?

And some others…
Pierre-Paul Rubens’Siléne ivre
Lorenzo Lippi’s L’Allégerie de la Simulation
Some other works by Jean Honoré Frangonard, whose painting The Swing is the most popular painting of the Rococo movement
Charles-François Lacroix’s Paysage
Jean-Baptiste Greuze’s Portrait presume de madame de Porcïn, which has a cute little dog in it
Karl-Ernest-Rudolph Heinrich’s Jérémie dictant ses phophéties, which has one of the most powerful facial expressions on both Jérémie and the angel of a mélange of hatred, belief, and determination that I’ve ever seen
Guillaume Bodinier’s Paysanne de Frascati au confessional
This painting of Joan of Arc (I couldn’t make out the name on the photo I took):

Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes’Paysage de bord de mer
Pierre-Narcisse Guérin’s Étude pour le visage d’Egisthe vu de profil
Alexis Jeaneau’s Femme á la coupe d’oranges (think Gaugin meets Carmen Miranda)
The sculptures at the end of the tour, where you can see the markings where the artist was never able to finish his (or her) piece of work.
And finally, although I usually don’t care too much for this movement, I was really impressed with Philippe Cognée’s Recyclage number 1.  

This painting reminds me of Anselm Kiefer’s work, an artist whom I truly admire.  Born in Germany and now living in France, Kiefer’s works are made with natural elements.  This is because his works are reflective of the Holocaust, and he believes that like rocks, ash, and woods that deteriorates over time, our memories of that tragic event will dwindle and decompose as well.  I still remember standing in front of his work Lot’s Wife, mouth agape, at the Cleveland Museum of Art as the tour guide explained tried her best to explain this to a bunch of 8th graders. 

 At such a young age, peering through my huge wire glasses and frizzy hair, I gazed at the train tracks made from straw and wood splinters forming train tracks that went to a smokestack somewhere in the distance where the crematorium would inevitably be found, followed it past the painting, and then looked down to the floor at the small dustings of ash and pieces of the painting, and understood what the tour guide was straining to explain over a mass of giggly tweenie voices.  

Needless to say, that painting left quite an impression on me.  

Making my way back home, thinking of all of the works of art I spent seconds looking at, but took years to complete, I worked my mind back to Kiefer’s painting, remembering that on Saturday, I would be visiting Normandy, where D-Day occurred. 

Isn’t it strange how things free of charge, like the museum and the art exhibit I saw on the streets in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, can be so impressionnante?

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