During my semester abroad in Sorrento, Italy during the Spring of 2019, I was fortunate enough to receive a grant to travel to Paris, France for the duration of my spring break. Over the course of four days, I was able to explore Paris and the Louvre museum to discover various works of art that I had learned about through one of my courses at SLU, ultimately allowing me to observe cultural influences on art.
Participation in an art history course the year before my semester abroad sparked a new interest of mine in art and its relation and influence on society and cultures. As a Biology major with a minor in Public Health, much of my studies at SLU have been limited to science courses, restricting me from discovering new areas of interest in my studies. However, through this course I gained an interest in the differences in art seen in separate cultures over time. After being accepted into the Italy program, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to directly explore the many art forms of my favorite historical art era, the Italian Renaissance. Studying in Italy gave me the opportunity to see these pieces of art through the various museums and historic Italian cities, such as the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. However, the Louvre museum in Paris holds many if not most of the world’s most influential and pronounced artwork, including pieces from the Italian Renaissance, the French Renaissance, and the Baroque period – all of which I had studied in detail in my class. Thanks to the generous donation by the Romeo-Gilbert family, I was given the opportunity to travel to Paris to explore the Louvre and satisfy my intrigue in historical artwork.
Upon arriving in Paris, I spent the entirety of my first day leisurely exploring the Louvre museum, trying to absorb as much as I could from such a vast magnitude of artwork. The Louvre consists of what feels like hundreds of hallways filled with paintings and sculptures from a variety of different historical eras. I was able to see many of the artworks that I had learned about, including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The Oath of Horatii by Jacques-Louis David, Odalisque by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, and Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix to name a few. Seeing these artworks in person allowed me to recognize the beauty of each of them, as I was able to see aspects of immense detail and texture of which cannot be appreciated through a screen. After the overwhelming size and stature of the Louvre, I spent my following three days leisurely exploring the city of Paris and many of its architectural artwork such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Arc de Triomphe. The ability to explore the streets of Paris allowed me to realize the magnitude of cultural influence on art and architecture, as I was able to compare the buildings of Paris to those of Italy and even the US, and notice the differences in modern buildings and artwork that result from historical, cultural influences such as the French and Italian Renaissance in Europe.
Overall, this experience allowed me to contextualize what I have learned in my studies to better enrich my interest in art and again a better understanding of how changes in art influence cultural societies and generations. This grant allowed me to fulfill my desire to experience the architecture of the periods in which they were built while interacting and being immersed in the French community. Furthermore, my experience in Paris gave me the upmost intercultural experience, allowing me to reflect on my experiences in Italy to gain an appreciation of cultural art influence and an understanding of its influence on modern societies that originally arose during the Renaissance era. Upon returning to campus, I have gained a new sense of independence and responsibility from traveling alone in a foreign country, that will benefit me in my undergraduate studies as well as my future endeavors.