European Art: A Timeless Legacy Capturing Hearts and Minds
The text below is the excerpt from the book Art in Europe (ISBN: 9781783109005), written by Victoria Charles, published by Parkstone International.
Explore more on Europe in our articles.
The city of Lyon is the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region of France, located in east-central France. Renowned for its historically and architecturally impressive buildings and sights, Lyon is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Historic centre of the city includes the ruins of a Roman theatre, and the hill upon which it is located is also home to the imposing Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière.
In ancient times, the city was renowned for its propensity to produce high-quality silk. Today, Lyon is known as the city of French gastronomy. In addition to this title, Lyon has become known as the Capital of Lights, due to its remarkable festival of lights, taking place every December over four days.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts was founded in 1801 and is located in a former 17th-century Benedictine convent. The building of the abbey (or convent) was converted into a museum in 1792, after a decision by the Municipal Council to use the building as a place to conserve objects of value such as medals and bronzes, amongst other artistically valuable objects.
As one of the most important museums in Europe, it houses collections over a wide range of genres including ancient Egyptian artefacts, and Modern Art paintings.
Within the paintings collection, European 14th-20th-century works are displayed chronologically and according to the key schools, across thirty-five rooms, making up half of the museum’s overall collection. The diverse range of painting eras within the collection consist of 16th-18th-century medieval French painting, 19th-century French painting, 14th-18thcentury Italian painting, 17th-century medieval Spanish painting, 16th-17th-century medieval German, Flemish, and Dutch painting as well as 20th-century painting.
Montpellier, located on the French coast on the Mediterranean Sea, is the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Visitors to the city will find the nucleus of the city is the Place de la Comédie; the Opera Comédie an example of 19th-century architecture. Most of the buildings in the historic centre are of medieval construct with newer modifications dating from the 16th-18th centuries.
Some of the city’s historic landmarks include the Saint Pierre Cathedral (14th century), Porte du Peyrou (17th century), Saint Clement Aquaduct (18th century), as well as the oldest botanical garden in France: Jardin des plantes de Montpellier (16th century).
The Musée Fabre is one of Montpellier’s main tourist attractions and is also an important French cultural centre. It was made a Musée de France by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and therefore is given financial support from the State.
The museum was founded in 1825 by François-Xavier Fabre (a painter from Montpellier) when he donated a large collection of artworks to the town. In 1828 the museum collection was established within the Hotel de Massillian, and the exhibition grew considerably as other collectors donated their collections to the museum, following Fabre’s lead.
Amongst these collectors, of particular note is Antoine Valedau who donated an assortment of Dutch and Flemish masterworks. The museum hosts temporary exhibitions and offers lectures and conferences for the public on specialized topics in its auditorium. Also offered by the museum are private tours; thus offering visitors the opportunity to experience the museum outside of opening hours.
Paris, France’s capital city, is picturesquely set on the river Seine in the centre of the region of Ile-de-France. The largest city in France, the Parisian metropolitan area has a population of over 12 million people, one of Europe’s most populated metropolitan areas.
As its influences in politics, education, entertainment, media, fashion, and the arts would suggest, Paris is one of the world’s leading global cities. Several international organisations such as UNESCO and the International Chamber of Commerce are headquartered here, and it is considered to be one of the world’s leading business centres.
It is also one of the world’s principal cultural centres. With over 3,800 historical monuments and four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Paris attracts 42 million visitors every year, making it the world’s most visited city.
Musée d’Art moderne de la ville de Paris
The Musée d’Art moderne de la ville de Paris opened in 1961, focusing the exhibit on a core collection from the Petit Palais’s contemporary collection. The exhibition was boosted by a generous loan from the art collectors Sarmiento, Amos, and Vollard.
Musée du Louvre
The building of the Louvre itself – the Louvre Palace – has a history as compelling as the works housed inside it. Originally a fortress built in 12th-century France, the building received numerous extensions, leading to it becoming the French Royal Palace. Its role as royal residence diminished upon the Royal Family and Court’s quitting of the Palace in favour of the luxurious Versailles Palace, the decision was made to utilise the residence instead for the purposes of displaying the art collection of the Royal Family. The period of the French Revolution proved to be not only a time for change for the country of France, but also for the Musée du Louvre, as it was given the office of public museum.
The Musée d’Orsay was originally a railway station, which was built to host the 1900 World Exhibition. After the introduction of longer trains, the platforms of the station became too short to use. It served several different purposes over the years: a mailing centre during World War II, a film set for The Trial adapted by Orson Welles, and an auction house, and was eventually listed as a Historic Monument in 1978.
Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Georges-Pompidou
As well as housing the National Modern Art Museum (the largest in Europe), the Centre Georges Pompidou also hosts the Public Information Library and IRCAM, a centre for music and acoustic research. The museum is named after the 19th President of France, whose decision it was to create the museum.
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