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Top 7 Summer Destinations (From Art)


Top 7 Summer Destinations (From Art)

Are you still undecided of where to go on vacation this summer? Check out the favourite retreats of the artists and find a place for yourself:

1. Do you like to casually stroll in parks and forests?

Choose the Fontainebleau Forest/ Barbizon village.

 A Meadow Bordered by Trees, Théodore Rousseau, ca.1845
A Meadow Bordered by Trees, Théodore Rousseau, ca.1845, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Barbizon is a small village in northern France where, from the beginning of the 1820s, many artists would spend summers in order to study nature and paint au plain air. Barbizon lies near the Fontainebleau Forest, which formerly had been a preserve for kings, and in the 19th century became a popular trip destination for the growing leisure classes. Painters who often ventured into the woods together founded the Barbizon School, which gave the beginning to a new style of painting landscapes. They didn’t want to classicize or add any mythological meaning to their landscapes – the practice strongly recommended by the French Academy. They would rather show the truth and strive for establishing landscape as a genre for itself.

2. Fancy a boat trip?

Go to Argenteuil.

The Railway Bridge at Argenteuil, Claude Monet, 1874, Philadelphia Museum of Art PA.

Argenteuil is a tiny but very picturesque town just 11 kilometres from central Paris. Monet decided to move in there when he returned to France from his stay in London in 1872. His friends like Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet or Alfred Sisley, visited him in his house and Argenteuil was at that time a real artistic hub for the Impressionists. Monet created there some of his most recognizable works and he could have been often seen painting the light reflections in water while sitting in his studio-turned boat.

3. Would you prefer a full-body experience?

Then Moritzburg would be perfect for you.

Akte in der Sonne, Moritzburg, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910, private collection.

The Moritzburg Lakes lie near Dresden where many of the members of the German Expressionist group Die Brücke (The Bridge) lived. They would go to the lakes together with their models to bathe in the nude and paint. Their activities were a reaction against the corrupt way of urban life at the time that Die Brücke criticized.

4. Are you stuck in a city for a whole week and need a quick weekend getaway?

Pick Asnieres.

Bathers at Asnieres, George Seurat, 1884, National Gallery, London.

Asnieres lies in the suburbs of Paris along the river Seine. In the 19th century it became another weekend destination (together with Barbizon) for both higher and working classes. In this painting, Seurat depicted the poorer class bathing on one bank of the river, whereas in the famous A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jattehe portrayed the higher class on the opposite bank. In the background one can see the chimneys of the developing Parisian industry.

5. Graduated from uni?

Time for the Gra(n)d Tour!

Francis Basset (1757-1835), Pompeo Batoni, 1778, Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Francis Basset (1757-1835), later 1st Baron de Dunstanville & Basset, went to Rome for the Grand Tour as most of the noble young Englishmen did in the 18th century. A trip to Europe was believed the best way to complete gentleman’s education (women were considered too fragile to travel, which back then was a quite a venture). Usually one would start off in Paris to later move down to Spain or Italy. Young men were meant to study ruins, old artifacts and works of art. Many of them requested portraits which would document their education abroad. However, the Tours often concentrated more on partying (and spending money on souvenirs like paintings, jewellery or old artifacts) than studying. Oh, those youngsters.

6. Are you ready to take risks (would you still enjoy yourself if reality didn’t live up to your expectations?)

Follow in Paul Gauguin’s footsteps.

Four Breton Women, Paul Gauguin, 1886, Neue Pinakothek, Munich.

Before his first trip to Tahiti, Paul Gauguin had moved to Brittany in order to experience, as he had imagined, the less civilized and therefore more spiritual way of life. Although the people in Brittany lived in a very similar way to the Parisians, Paul still painted them wearing traditional costumes or using old-fashioned farming methods. Similarly, he had imagined Tahiti as a promised land where people lived in harmony with nature and each other. Yet when he stepped off the ship on the island, he faced a country largely europeanized by France, whose colony Tahiti was, where most of the indigenous culture had been suppressed. Nonetheless, he still decided to depict in his paintings the Tahiti he had dreamt of, that is the island of the spirits of nature, bright colours and the mindful living.

7. Home sweet home…

The Farm, Joan Miro, 1921, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.

If you study or work away from home, sometimes it’s just good to go back to your family house for the summer. When Joan Miro moved to Paris in 1918 to seriously focus on painting, he really missed Spain and his parents’ summer house in Mont-roig del Camp. He would usually return to Spain to spend the unbearable in Paris hot summer months on his family farm. His incredibly detailed painting The Farm shows how well Miro remembered his home and how much he loved, missed and therefore idealized Spain.

Magda, art historian and Italianist, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.


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