Time Travel in Paris

Post by: Katy Hallberg, a senior studying Finance and CISB. Katy’s travel to Paris was supported by a GBC Study Abroad Scholarship. 

This past summer I was fortunate enough to study in Paris for eight weeks. One of the courses I enrolled in was 19th century French painting. Although most of our lectures took place in the classroom, we were able to visit several museums with our professor to see some paintings up close. I never realized how much difference seeing the painting in real life would make; we were able to see the impasto from the brush strokes, the vividness of the oil paint, and the intricate details of the textures. Our professor had an impeccable ability to describe the importance of each piece and how the impressionists started a revolution with unassuming paintings, relative to contemporary art. We studied paintings from Courbet to Dada, covering the scope of impressionism to the beginning of abstract art.

Outside of the classroom, I was able to visit certain cafes that were the preferred meet up spot for artists like Van Gogh and Renoir. It is easy to get caught in tourist traps within the city, but when I was able to find the quiet cafes where the artists found their inspiration and congregated over espressos I really fell in love with Paris. I began to appreciate all facets of French culture, beyond the esprit and aristocracy.This course was an introduction to art for me as my background is in business. I can now look at a painting and understand the importance of the colors the artist chose and the composition of shapes. The ability to see the first few monumental impressionist paintings in Paris really impacted me because I live in a city that is younger than most of those paintings. My hometown, Seattle, is marked by extremely rapid growth within the past decade, so experiencing the rich history within the walls of the museums particularly stuck with me. With all the new technology developing around my neighborhood, history can easily be forgotten.

This course and experience living in Europe for two months allowed me to appreciate history. I can take what I have learned about the pivotal moments of the past and now apply that to new business ventures in my future career. The ability to study abroad has allowed me to become more rounded and shape my outlook on life. When the impressionists held their first exhibit, many people were horrified at the atrocities hanging on the wall. Now, thousands of people visit le Musee d’Orsay each year to catch a glimpse of “Olympia” by Manet. These paintings have taught me about the importance of being open to new, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas because they might be the next masterpiece.