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Sainte Chapelle, Paris, completed in 1248
It’s hard to identify the je ne sais quoi that gives Paris its powerful appeal. What has set it apart over the centuries? Does it come from the great Gothic cathedral of Notre Dame or the delicate Sainte-Chapelle, alight with stunning stained glass windows? Perhaps it’s the art nouveau entrances that frame the Paris Metro and the Pompidou Centre. Perhaps it’s the city’s propensity to transform itself: For example, the Louvre—a medieval fortress, then royal residence, then world-class museum—most recently remade itself with I.M. Pei’s controversial pyramid-shaped entrance.
Take an armchair tour of Paris with Distinguished Professor of Art History Janetta Rebold Benton to discover the secrets of the City of Light.
9:30–10:30 a.m. Medieval and Renaissance Paris
Learn how Roman Lutetia became Paris. It was among Europe’s largest cities until its population was decimated by bubonic plague and ravaged by the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). The University of Paris was founded ca. 1150, making it one of Europe’s oldest. The Gothic style of art and architecture was developed here, complemented by stained glass windows. The original Louvre was built as a fortress to protect the royal family.
10:45 a.m.–12 noon Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassicism
During the reign of Louis XIII (1610-43), Paris solidified its reputation as Europe’s cultural capital. Luxurious Luxembourg Palace and gardens were created, along with the Place de La Concorde, Les Invalides, and Place Vendome. Parisian artists included Charles Le Brun, Rococo favorite Honoré Fragonard, and Jacques-Louis David, who painted scenes of the French Revolution. Political and cultural power, which had been moved to Versailles by Louis XIV, was returned to Paris as the revolution began. The Emperor Napoleon commissions the Arc de Triomphe in 1806.
12 noon–1 p.m. Lunch
A Parisian-inspired gourmet boxed lunch is provided.
1–2:15 p.m. Romanticism, Realism, Impressionism, and Post-Impressionism
Emperor Napoleon III chose Georges-Eugene Haussmann in 1853 to carry out a massive modernization program of boulevards, parks, and public works in Paris, and a spectacular transformation began. Narrow medieval streets gave way to broad boulevards lined with monumental buildings such as the grand Baroque Revival opera house Palais Garnier (where Edgar Degas’s painted ballerinas might have danced). Engineer Gustave Eiffel, built the tower that became France’s enduring symbol. Montmartre became the artists’ mecca; the Moulin Rouge’s risqué nightlife inspired paintings by Toulouse Lautrec. Cartoonist Honoré Daumier depicted daily life while Monet, Renoir, and other impressionist painters moved outdoors for inspiration.
2:15–2:45 p.m. Brief Interlude
Break for a glass of wine and a Parisian-inspired snack.
2:45–4 p.m. The 20th Century
Art nouveau entrances adorn the Paris Metro. Famous artists made Paris home, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Georges Rouault, Constantin Brancusi, Fernand Leger, Marcel Duchamp, Alberto Giacometti, Victor Vasarely, Mary Cassatt. Pompidou Centre—a cultural center built inside out—opens in 1977 and breaks the rules of architectural design. Frank Gehry's futuristic, translucent, glass and metal Fondation Louis Vuitton opens in 2014.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit
Prestige Beverage and Un Je Ne Sais Quoi are donors to the program.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)