Sunday, October 26, 2008


Today, Wendy planned another excursion for our group: A trip to the Musèe des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Lyon’s Museum of Fine Arts), and due to my last experience at the Van Gogh/Monticelli exhibit, I was obviously extremely excited to attend! Even though I had no idea what type of art I would be viewing, and I wasn’t quite sure why Wendy had instructed us to bring our journals along, I was glad I didn’t have to patiently wait any longer. I decided that, as far as I was concerned, I genuinely wanted the experience of seeing as many European museums as possible while I’m in France!

On our arrival at the museum, we all received English brochures that (thankfully) explained what collections the museum featured. After flipping through the book, I was shocked to learn that one building could house so many interesting and different works. Basically, the museum’s seventy rooms were divided up into five departments that featured 19th and 20th century sculptures, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiques, paintings from the 15th to the 20th century, graphic arts, and decorative arts from the Renaissance and Middle Ages. Since we were not required to see any particular area or meander about in particular groups, I decided to go off on my own and see all I could before our time ran out. Of course, things didn’t truly work out as I had planned.

First, let me explain that our professor had made one request of us before entering the museum. She asked us to bring our daily journals along so that we could write about our Musèe des Beaux-Arts de Lyon experience while we were experiencing it. According to her ideals, we were to write in our journals anytime we found a piece of art worthy enough of the attention (in our eyes). Our writing could be negative, positive, contain sketches, factual, questioning, descriptive, etcetera.

I was initially excited by the idea. I love writing, and I loved the fact that it would be a way for me to truly remember and recall what I had seen after time washes away the minor details from my memories. It was a great assignment, but it was also, in at least one way, somewhat detrimental. You see, I didn’t even get halfway through the museum when I received a text message asking me to meet the rest of the group in the lobby! Once again, I was the last one out of the museum, and I felt awful that I had forced everyone else to wait for me. It wasn’t my intention at all. I just got lost in the experience. I couldn’t help it.

You see, I started my museum excursion in the sculpture area, even though I felt as though I was very disconnected from sculptures and had no real draw to them. I figured I ought to give them a shot, and I reasoned that I could move onto more interesting paintings or graphic art when or if I got bored. Of course, before even making it into the sculpture room, I was held captive by a particular piece: Frèdèric-Auguste Bartholdi’s “La Libertè Eclairant de Monde.” This work was the actual model for America’s prized Statue of Liberty! It was constructed from clay, and before seeing it here I had completely forgotten that France gave America that piece of artwork! Not to mention, I’d never really thought of the Statue of Liberty as a work of Fine Art. It always just was. It was a given—a symbol of our nation and our right of freedom.

Well, seeing this iconic structure in this particular context changed everything for me. First off, it was comforting for me to see even though I’ve never truly seen her in real life. Viewing this statue in Lyon was like being allowed to view a little piece of home. It made me smile, and reminded me of the country I love and the people I miss. Secondly, it made me think historically. I remembered that it was a gift from the people of France to America in 1886 in order to commemorate the Centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. It finally occurred to me that someone had to commission Bartholdi to create it, and he had to take the time to construct it, which meant he needed to consider everything about it. It’s size, shape, structure, material, positioning, etcetera. It truly was a work of art, and I’m glad that it is so appreciated and recognized today.

Other sculptures that caught my eye and induced what must have been fairly intriguing/entertaining writing furies in my journal included Auguste Rodin’s bust of Gustave Geoffroy, Barye’s “Lion et Serpant,” and Rik Wouters’ “La Folle Danseuse, dite aussi La Vierge Folle.” I especially loved the last one because it featured a female dancer! I felt as though I could sit and stare at her forever.

After leaving that area of the museum, which immensely reminded me of the room featured in the motion picture based on C.S. Lewis' book The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I couldn’t help but to feel a little lonely and sad! It felt as though I was leaving all of my new, stone cold friends. Haha. I had a new appreciation for statues and their ability to move me without physically being able to move themselves.

The next (and final) section that I embarked on featured paintings from the fifteenth to the twentieth century. I was drawn to many of them including Louis Janmot’s “Cauchemar Beacaux” and “Rayons De Soleil,” Zièglen’s “Judith aux Portes de Bèthulie,” Gerard Van Honthorst’s “Les Chanteurs,” Champaigne’s “Le Cêne,” Campio’s “Les Mangeurs De Ricotta,” and Victor Orsel’s “Le Bien et Le Mal.” The last of these stunning works is featured here (with thanks to Google Image Search!). I felt compelled to display it on my blog because of how absolutely ridiculous it was to me. It was created in 1832, and if you view the image up close, you can clearly tell that it is meant to be allegorical and informative. This makes sense considering the fact that all people would be able to learn lessons through the use of images as opposed to being forced to learn through the act of reading the written word. The painting clearly “discusses” the idea of justice or, as its name reveals, good and bad, and reveals the idea of consequence. Of course, in the religious work, consequence extends into the afterlife and all nonconformity to the rules presented in the image does not end very well. Overall, I couldn’t stop staring at this highly opinionated work. It angered me in present day because it was so judgmental on women, but I knew that it represented a time in our history where these judgments were commonplace and considered to be truths. What do you all think about the image? Would it have caught your eye?

In conclusion, my Musèe des Beaux-Arts de Lyon experience was positively great (minus the fact that I only got partway through the museum’s exhibits)! I’m really glad that I took so many notes on so many works of art and will forever have them to conjure up details of that day in my overall Lyon experience. Not to mention, I hope that others who choose to read my journal will be able to get a better sense of how the actual art affected me as an individual because I really do believe it is an individual experience. No one else can see something in exactly your perspective or feel it that way and that’s why we are drawn to specific pieces and not to others. Don’t you think?

Avec l'Amour,

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