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News Student Blog: Studying Art Abroad

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​Greetings at the Musée de l'Homme (Museum of Mankind)​​ in Paris.

​​​​​​​​​In this blog post, undergraduate art conservation major Riley Thomas reflects on studying art and culture in Paris, capped off with a talk presented to ​visitors at the Louvre Museum:

In the fall of 2016 I was honored to be one of ten students chosen to study abroad in Paris, France. As an Art Conservation major with a French minor, it was a great opportunity to be able to both improve my language skills and gain exposure to some of the greatest art collections in the world.  at places such as the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. While there, I lived with a host family consisting of my host mom, my host sister who was also studying art conservation as well as archaeology, and my host dog, a chunky yellow lab named Diwali. Together, we lived in a cozy apartment in Paris.

​I studied at the Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP), where I took courses in oral and written French, art history, and gastronomy. The classes were organized for international students, so while I shared a campus with many French students, my classmates were students from all over the world looking to improve their language abilities as well. My art history class was taught in French, and focused on French artists from the 18th and 19th C. Perhaps the most amazing opportunity was participating in Les Jeunes ont la parole ("The Youth Have the Floor") at the Louvre. Instead of an oral presentation in class, we presented to museum visitors at the Louvre in French! It was an amazing way to become more confident in speaking French, as well as engage with actual French people, who were more than happy to see that you were trying to learn their language, as well as tourists from around the world.​

Top: Art Conservation undergraduate student Riley Thomas gives a presentation on "Madame Vigée LeBrun et sa fille, Julie" at the Louvre as part of their program Les jeunes ont la parole (The Youth Have the Floor). Image by Gail Coughlin. Above: Riley and classmates enjoying the canal at Versailles.

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

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​In this blog post, undergraduate art conservation major Riley Thomas reflects on studying art and culture in Paris, capped off with a talk presented to ​visitors at the Louvre Museum.

​In this blog post, undergraduate art conservation major Riley Thomas reflects on studying art and culture in Paris, capped off with a talk presented to visitors at the Louvre Museum.

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Student Blog: Studying Art Abroad
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489