Europe, France

Prehistory to Picasso

With a little more than a month left in the semester, everything is happening all at once without much time to slow down. This week, besides two field trips, I also attended a cooking class and wine tasting. The cooking class was wonderful, and I learned how to prepare salmon on a cauliflower puree. In my opinion it was an amazing meal, but I imagine if you don’t like salmon, cauliflower, or both, it would be less thrilling. The wine tasting came on Friday after a busy week of essays and assignments, and sparkling wine seemed like a fair treat.  Champagne only comes from the champagne region of France, and legally no matter how one makes sparkling wine, it cannot be called champagne unless it is from that region – part of why champagne is so expensive outside of France. So in addition to champagne, we also tasted Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti (my favorite), Cava Do, and a mixed drink known as a Kir Royale. The Kir Royale was the official drink of the Bourbon kings and a simpler Kir is exactly the same but made with regular white wine rather than a sparkling wine. All in all, I really enjoyed trying them all and learning about the different grape varieties and processes of making the wines.

Saturday was an art history trip to see some Picasso works along with other contemporary art. We started off in the Roman city of Nîmes, most famous for the Pont du Gard. The contemporary art museum is just across the street from the Roman temple – the Maison Carée that inspired Jefferson in building Monticello and several other buildings in Virginia. The museum’s exhibit focused focused on Picasso’s political works of the 1930s – the Spanish civil war and start of WWII. Across the hall was also an exhibit of contemporary political works dealing with the refugee crisis. It was a fascinating comparison and a nice selection of works. The city itself was also lovely, and I loved as always seeing the Roman city incorporated into the modern. Following Nîmes, we went to Avignon for some contemporary art at the Collection Lambert which I really enjoyed.

Today was a trip with my class on Contemporary French Identities to the Grotte Chauvet – a cave with paintings older than the more famous Lascaux. Discovered in 1994, it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2014 after more extensive research had been done on the now difficult-to-access cave.  In 2015, a second Chauvet opened for the public to tour, without the risk of climbing into the cave or damaging the site once there. It’s really just a fascinating visit that forces you to consider humanity’s history as well as the history of art. After the discovery of Lascaux in 1940, the general consensus was that before Lascaux art had been primitive such as handprints and little more. Chauvet threw that idea out the door, particularly in my opinion since the art on those walls is FAR better than anything I could possibly do. The simplest take away is that da Vinci did not invent perspective. The original cave is located just by a natural bridge, and it is generally believed that the paintings had spiritual significance since there is no evidence that man lived in the caves (but bears did!). It was a fantastic trip, and I can’t wait to read the books I bought while I take study breaks this week.

Until next time ~

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