The weekend attacks perpetrated by terrorists in the amazing, beautiful, culturally-impressive city of Paris, France at first makes me feel that anything I might write today will have little meaning in the face of tragedy, violence and brutal disregard for life as we know it. But the more I thought about it, the opposite seemed right: celebrate the things that PARIS stands for. Shout out its history and vibrancy. And most of all, celebrate the culture that it has given us through books, music, art, architecture and the beauty of the French language. Dear Paris, Je t’aime, nous vows aimons. Vive Paris!
In the U.S. many children are first introduced to Paris via the lovely story of Madeline. With it’s amazing illustrations and it’s rhyming story line, the book by Ludwig Bemelmans started a series of stories about the smallest of the girls that live in a Catholic boarding school in Paris. Madeline might be tiny in stature, but she seeks adventure and encourages children who read about her to do the same. She emulates strength, a Parisian characteristic. French literature has given us writers such as Honore de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Georges Sand, Simone de Beauvoir, Moliere, Guy De Maupassant. Certainly Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables champions the strength of the common man and his strength in the face of evil. Below is a statue of Balzac done by Auguste Rodin, a French sculptor whose work is know world-wide and whose work is often considered the spark of modern sculpture.
For centuries French artists have gifted the world with innovative movements in painting and sculpture. The French impressionist movement brought to all art lovers scenes of Paris and the surrounding countryside. (See painting at the head of this piece.) A large metropolitan American art museum is simply not complete unless it has the works of Claude Monet for viewing. Considered the founder of the French Impressionist movement, Claude Monet often painted outdoors in nature, his goal to capture the changes and the movement that light provides a chosen subject. He would often paint the same subject many times–only the time of day or the season changing–and thus the work itself changing. His perceptions of nature heralded the importance of plein-air landscape painting.
This picture of a Parisian Boulevard shows Paris’s fascinating architecture, rows and rows of buildings with the famous French mansard roof. This roof style allows for more interior or attic space, thus allowing a builder to add another storey without using masonry. The design was often used by Francois Mansart (1598-1666) a French architect. A popular tale that has been refuted is that this roof style served to shelter it’s owners against taxes as well as rain. But some historians say the Fench window tax for a full storey in a building did not exist until 1798, years after Mansart’s death and did not exempt mansard windows.
Paris has gifted the world with opera, ballet and orchestral music, jazz and piano music. Parisian artists walked the streets of Paris and were inspired by its beauty and the lovely cadence of the French language: Debussy, Ravel, Saint Saens, Bizet, Berlioz, Satie, Poulenc, Franck, Faure and Gounod–to name only a very few.
And in today’s creative world, novelists and screenwriters, playwrights and poets write about Paris–its people, its culture, its history. American women long to look and dress like Parisians and the perfumes and cosmetics that come from Paris have been prized by women since Catherine de Medicis, wife of King Henri II, was said to have introduced the use of perfumes to the French.
So this post celebrates and honors French culture and the people of Paris. May their rich heritage which has brought so much beauty to the world continue to inspire us. Let us all wish them peace and safety today and always. Dear Paris, Je t’aime, nous vows aimons. Vive Paris!
Thanks to: www.ala.org, impressionists1877.tripod.com, www.dreamtime.com, www.entertainment.howstuffworks.com, www.e-architect.couk
Also posted on betterafter50.com