Art history classes in college often consisted of the drudgery of route memorization. Movements and styles were observed and filed away with some small mental notes on preference. It was not until I began to travel and see paintings in museums and houses around the world that the history of so many remembered works came alive. While studying abroad in Italy I began to feel like all of the art ever produced there was still living and breathing, because it was cherished as a part of daily life and culture.
Every painting movement has its poster piece, that image we file away with a title and date to represent an era. But the heart of each movement exists because of a synchronicity playing through the strokes of so many artists’ work at once.
This amazing chord can be observed at French Metro. Renee has managed to bring a museum quality collection of artists together( truly, since many of the works at French Metro have hung in French museums); so we can see and feel the viewpoints of French artists working in academic, impressionistic,and even modern styles.
My favorite aspect of the collection here is when she finds multiple paintings of the same subject. There are two paintings in the shop right now of the Sacre Coeur Basilica, one a small and cheerful impressionistic street scene with the prevailing white of the dome lighting a path down the city street.
The larger painting of Sacre Coeur features a heavy impasto winter scene, with the cold white of the dome looming from behind imposing structures. In this incredible example, we see the lively loose brush work of two artists who embraced the impressionist style, a way of capturing a moment by letting the emotive quality of their hand define the scene, rather than the more rigid lines and motifs of academic painting.
But what is most interesting is getting to see the individuality of each artist’s vision. They are such different paintings, despite being from the same movement, era, and even subject. It is so thrilling to unpack each container from France and get to see these incredible pieces of history go up on our walls. It is better than going to a museum, because these pieces Renee has brought home to Arkansas are going to make their ways into people's homes; They will bring a living breathing history and beauty into daily life here.