My painting was “Madame Vigée Le Brun et sa fille,
Julie”, which was a self-portrait of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun with her daughter, in oil from the end of the 18th
century. Le Brun was one of very few female painters to have had great success,
becoming the official portraitist of Queen Marie-Antoinette, as well as the
first woman accepted into the Royal Academy. This was a tremendous feat at that
time because social prejudice did not allow women in artist workshops unless
the workshop was owned by their father or they were models. Those who did
succeed in making a career of painting often gave up their craft after they
married unless they were married to another artist or art dealer. Madame Vigée
Le Brun was the daughter of a portraitist and married a paintings dealer so she
had both advantages.
It was a very valuable experience to present in both French and English, to audiences who had varying levels of knowledge about Le Brun, the neoclassical era of painting, or even art history in general. Although my partner and I had prepared a script, we often had to adapt to our audience. Each Friday we had different audiences, so there was never a shortage of new experiences. I am forever grateful to my professors at ICP and the coordinators at the Louvre for giving me this opportunity, and I would highly recommend both the course and Les Jeunes ont la parole to any student who participates in this study abroad program in the future.
The opportunity to explore art was not limited to Paris since travel by train is so easy, and visited several different countries and their top museums. For example, in London I visited the National Gallery, the British Museum, and the Wallace Collection. In Vienna, I toured the Kunsthistorisches Museum and their collections of historic musical instruments and arms and armor, two areas which I have always found fascinating. Perhaps the most meaningful experience however, was the chance to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, as Van Gogh is one of my favorite painters. As an art conservation student, the opportunity to see individual works or even entire museums I had only read about was priceless.
- Riley Thomas, UD Class of 2018