Louvre Archives - St. Stephen's University

Géricault, Bonheur, and Cod Liver Oil

By | 2016, Europe | 2 Comments

My primary struggle on this journey has been, for me, an unexpected one. Periodically, and as early on in our itinerary as London, I have been nearly paralyzed by homesickness. I’m not isolated. I’m surrounded by friends. I adore the cities that have welcomed me. But, in a truly horrific throwback to middle school, I have felt shapeless and ungrounded.  I crave a context to recognize myself in, an identity formed by participating in a familiar environment, and not just looking on. I have grown sick to my stomach of “hanging out”.

This feeling struck me especially hard in Paris, on the day we visited the Louvre. I remember walking through golden rooms filled with masterpieces from the Romantic Era. The passionate images surrounding me seemed to mirror my feelings. No matter their stories, the characters seemed dreadfully homesick to me. The Gypsies in Leopold Robert’s “L’Arrivée des Moissonneurs dans les marais Pontins” ceased to be wayfarers- I was certain that they had loaded their carts and harnessed their determined looking oxen with an ocean voyage in mind- New Brunswick bound!!  Girodet’s “The Entombment of Atala” was not bereaving the death of his lover, but the loss of a family farm. Gericault’s gaunt survivors on the Raft of the Medusa stared longingly for home, imagining in the distance the poplar trees that line the driveway of my parents’ home. What incredible strength of feeling these artists transcribed with their brushes and oils! The wretched faces surrounding me were not comforting, though. Our shared misery did not relieve our suffering at all.

What was incredible about the torture of the Romantic paintings, was that we fell short of communion. Atala and I suffered in relative silence, validating each others’ pain without subduing or healing it. This is not a critique of the art. The expressions and emotions on the canvases were exquisite. But it is a common human pitfall that in recognizing our pain, we all too often venerate it, and give it a home in us. I have nothing against feeling strong feelings, but it is important for home sicknesses,  heartbreak and weariness to remember where they belong on the food chain. The priest at the hostel in Paris knew this, and spoke in his homily of how we should not always pray, “God, I have such a big problem,” but “Problem, I have such a big God!” I can’t spend my whole life commiserating with Delacroix.

Praying that prayer, I moved on from the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay- where there hangs the most realistic portrayal of a cow in the known universe- by Rosa Bonheur. And that was home. Cows are not great sympathizers. But there is something about rural living, and livestock, that can snap you out of a reverie as if to say “Get back to work!” I walked out of Musée d’Orsay feeling ready to really live, to engage with the city, and ended up spending the afternoon making a new friend. I made a temporary little home in Paris.

So, I would like to thank the Romantics for helping me to feel and process, and the Realists for giving me courage and for kicking me in the butt. As far as art is concerned, I am gaining a valuable lesson in the importance of its movements. One perspective is never enough. Just as the needs, desires, and responsibilities of people change, our art needs to change as well. Try not to brush off a period in art as “too sentimental”, “to rigid”, “too absract”. Enjoy your favourites, of course, but art can be like cod liver oil. You might need what you don’t enjoy.


By | 2011, Europe | One Comment

The conclusion. The grand, so what? The point where we ask what the point was. Did we all just go on an extensive holiday? A spiritual pilgrimage? A big experiment in social dynamics? A cool photo/marketing opportunity for the school? How do you classify the crazy adventure we all shared in? And how are you supposed to quantify its value?

I am hesitant to call this trip ‘life changing.’ Educational – yes. Relationship building – I hope so. Thought provoking – definitely. But life changing? Doubtful. I’ve only been home two weeks and already the only tangible result of going to Europe is the homework. It is just too easy to slip back in to the same patterns of living and thinking. I hope though, that I can take away a new definition of normal. Or rather, a destruction of the concept of normal. You would think living in the big yellow house would be enough to convince a person that normality is an illusion, but apparently not. In the Vatican, I saw a fresco of a smashed Roman idol being replaced by a crucifix, and I was reminded that this is the reason Christianity seems ‘normal.’ In the colonies section of the British museum, I was reminded of why English is the ‘normal’ language, and why I expect that I can get by in all other European countries without bothering to learn more than a few phrases. The Uffizi and the Louvre were reminders of where our categories of good and bad art – and female beauty for that matter – are derived from. While learning about the darker parts of Reformation history, I wondered why it is so easy to believe our own doctrines and heroes are ‘normal,’ or, dare I say, infallible. Eastern Europe showed us a people for whom capitalism is not normal, although it is quickly becoming so. Visiting the Flanders Fields museum, we remembered that for many people, peace is not normal. And a feminist NGO worker in Brussels told us that just because a system is ‘normal,’ doesn’t mean it has to be.

So hopefully I learned something. Hopefully it makes a lasting difference. And hopefully I can learn to live without divisions of who is normal and who is not.


Paris: c’est magnifique, c’est fou, yet I still love you.

By | 2010, Europe | 2 Comments

7 July 2010. 22:30. Eiffel Tower, Paris.

In retrospect, we should have taken heed of the red flares as they released clouds of amber apprehension into the air. But as twilight encroached on that balmy summer evening, impending peril was the last thing on our minds. The day started out innocently enough. My intrepid partner Sophie and I, Robert Langdon, had just caught our breath after a surprise run-in with the French gendarmes after we tried to burn down the Louvre to see if the charred embers would settle into a treasure map showing where the Knights of the Round Table hid the real James ossuary—no, not James the brother of Jesus, James and the Giant Peach, obviously. Oh shoot, I just blew my cover of using that Dan Brown pseudonym…

Back to the Dan Snyder adventure:

So Tira and I appraised Delacroix and mimicked Michelangelo’s models at the Louvre, gazed at the grandeur of the Parisian skyline from the top of a Ferris wheel, and window shopped the showcases along the Champs Élysées. So far it was your pretty average, mundane day as university students. But, as the evening wore on, our stomachs begged for nourishment and we yearned for sustenance. We then made the fateful decision to turn left and leave the lovely lane of luxury, questing after more thrifty fare. Apparently, our meanderings were not meant to come to fruition. Perhaps the change in the air was provided as a premonition, but we were presently only perceptive towards any potential purveyors of provisions.

After finding no such establishments (in what we later realized was the business district) we stumbled upon the Eiffel Tower. There, a throng of thousands of Parisian youth were passively filing into a motivational talk entitled, “Geriatrics and Geraniums: Rediscovering the Joys of Gardening with Grandma”. Some of the more uncouth jeunes were calling it by its more commonplace soubriquet, “World Cup Semi-Final between Spain and Germany”. So after we all had our interest piqued in getting botanical with Grandma (many in the crowd seemed to read a nationalistic subplot into the speaker’s message and were either really excited for or mad at Spain) nevertheless we all tried to calmly exit the venue amidst controlled explosions of fireworks, limited jubilation, and a hushed murmur that only added to the tranquility of the evening.

It was a good thing that Parisians are renowned for being so orderly and courteous, otherwise Tira and I might have been clutching each other’s hand, dodging unruly gangs of rabble-rousers who may have been inciting senseless violence, and running to safety away from a frenzied mob back to our group on the other side of the Eiffel. But instead I say, kudos to you Paris for making Public Courtesy courses mandatory for all secondary students—worth every euro cent!

All in all, a gloriously unforgettable day, which finished with swing dancing beside the Eiffel. And to paraphrase the Bible: swing dancing covers a multitude of sins. So Paris, your slate is clean, no hard feelings. Well, maybe a few for only getting chips and a muffin for supper…

Lesson learned? Europeans are to the World Cup as Canadians are to the Stanley Cup playoffs; different sports, same crazy fans. Some things really are the same after all!

Dan S.

Europe can barf all over me if it wants to.

By | 2010, Europe | No Comments

Author Elizabeth Gilbert read my mind when she said…

“To travel is worth any cost or sacrifice. I am loyal and constant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby – I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine. Because it looks exactly like me. It can barf all over me if it wants to – I just don’t care”

A few years back I found myself, as I often do, working a job that was less than ideal. Here I was sitting on the floor of “The Bay” in Burlington, Ontario organizing men’s Tommy Hilfiger underwear.  A new employee walked by me, so I took the opportunity to introduce myself and take a break from the underwear. I quickly learned that this boy went to a school where you could travel to South East Asia AND Europe. It all sounded too good to be true, the constant battle between my parents and I had finally been solved, it WAS possible to travel the world while still getting a degree!  Thanks to Ryan Robinson’s marketing skills that day at “The Bay”, I applied to SSU. Since that day I have been anticipating this upcoming trip to Europe. Last year’s Asia trip was wonderful in every way, but going to Europe is a dream come true. A dream that it seems I was not quite prepared for when I arrived here in New Brunswick a few days ago. Apparently, It is absolutely essential that you bring a “therma-rest” to sleep on, of course I show up with a little blue mat,  no flashlight and a sleeping bag made out of tissue paper. So I am a little behind on all the camping lingo and I am missing all the trendy camping accessories, but I suppose that is all part of the adventure. I don’t mind sleeping on the floor for the summer when I get to wake up to a view of the Swiss Alps, or see a play at the Globe, or visit the Louvre with a bunch of my friends. Not too bad if you ask me. I am ready to get this trip going and fully intend to embrace it in every way possible, the adventures, the mishaps, the rain, the good days and the bad days, whatever this trip has in store for us I am ready for it. Europe can barf all over me if it wants, I just don’t care.

-Cara “ready to go” Lehocki