Europe Travel News

Traveling in France: an art-lover's dream

France vacations feature some of the best culture that the world has to offer. An important part of this experience is the art: whether you are a serious student or simply a dabbler with an appreciation for beauty, the country has a number of museums that are not to be missed.

Centre Pompidou
A large complex in the 4th arrondissement, the Centre Pompidou is home to a number of important destinations, including a large public library and a center for music research. For art lovers, however, the crown jewel is the Musée National D'Art Moderne, the largest museum of its kind in all of Europe. It has the second-largest collection in the world, surpassed only by New York City's Museum of Modern Art, showcasing more than 100,000 works, from 6,400 artists, who hail from 90 different countries.

The museum is divided into two collections, Modern Art and Contemporary Art. The former features styles such as Fauvism, Cubism, Dada and Surrealism, and has paintings by such luminaries as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, George Grosz and Kurt Schwitters. The Contemporary section, dedicated to work produced after 1960, explores tendencies like Pop Art, New Realism and Conceptual Art. Visitors can see work from Daniel Buren, Richard Hamilton and Andy Warhol.

Musée D'Orsay

The Musée D'Orsay is located right off the Seine river, making it a particularly nice day trip if you have a potamalogist in your party. Take the morning to walk along the water, grab lunch, and then head to this museum, which is housed in a re-purposed railway station and retains much of its charms. While the station itself is over a century old, the museum wasn't planned until 1974, and did not begin moving pieces in until 1986.

This is also the choice for those that are interested in local art in particular, as most of the collection comprises French works from 1848-1915, including paintings, sculptures and photography. It has the most Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings of any museum in the world, movements that include such important artists as Monet, Manet and Van Gogh.

On the sculpture side, visitors can see works from Sarah Bernhardt, Paul Gauguin and Camille Claudel.

Musée Rodin

After whetting your appetite for sculpture at the Musée D'Orsay, continue on to the Musée Rodin. Not only is this museum dedicated to sculptures, it is focused completely on one of the most dynamic and influential sculptors of all time: the eponymous Auguste Rodin. There are two sites, the Hotel Baron in central Paris, and one just outside the city, at Rodin's old home, the Villa des Brillants at Meudon.

Rodin, who is widely considered the father of modern sculpture, was critiqued during his lifetime. It was only after his passing that many of the techniques he used, which allowed him to form complex, turbulent surfaces in clay, were fully appreciated. Today, guests flock to appreciate his artistic mastery, and the museum receives about 700,000 annual visitors. Some of Rodin's personal paintings, including works by Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh, are also on exhibition.

Musée Ingres
Another narrowly-focused museum, the Musée Ingres is dedicated to the works of two artists: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres and Antoine Bourdelle. Established in 1854, it is in Montauban, a small city in the southern part of the country.

Ingres' biggest legacy is his portraits, including Napoleon Bonaparte. He was adept as both a painter and a drawer, and the museum has thousands of his drawings available for viewing. Bourdelle was a prolific sculptor and painter, whose work is featured in Italy, Japan and the United States. Stylish and well-appointed, this museum is the ideal choice for a serious art fan, and one who wants to learn a bit more about two of Montauban's most influential cultural figures.


Of course, no description of French artwork is complete with a discussion of the Louvre, one of the world's oldest and most important museums. Founded in 1793, it is a central landmark in the city of Paris, and is on the right bank of the Seine . The museum itself is in the Louvre palace, which has a history nearly a millennium long, and was originally a fortress under Philip II.

Visitors should be warned that there is a ton to see. It takes up over 650,000 square feet, and has almost 35,000 objects, spanning prehistoric times to the current century. The sheer breadth of art on display continually attracts tourists the world over, and more than 9,000,000 people visited in 2014, roughly the population of Sweden.

While all of the art is worth a look, perhaps the crown jewel of the collection is Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Its value has been approximated at $762 million, and the reasoning is clear: it has had a strong and enduring affect not only on painting but on culture as a whole. The subtle modeling and atmospheric illusionism are as breathtaking today as they were groundbreaking at the time.

Of course, France has so much more to offer than art. Lovers of food, wine and music will also have a wonderful time, making France tours a perfect excursion for the whole family. To see beauty that can't be found anywhere else on the globe, book your trip today.

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