Art in France

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Veronique and her parents spent Sunday morning visiting two art museums. The first, the Louvre, is one of the most famous art museums in the world. It contains many paintings and pieces of sculpture from many countries. The Jeu de Paume contains paintings created in the 19th century, mainly by French artists.

These are two of many museums in France. The French have spent much money over the years to collect works of art by artists from France and other countries. Millions of tourists come to the Louvre and other museums to view these works of art.

The French government also encourages present-day French artists. One per cent of money set aside for public buildings and housing must be spent on art for the building. It is not unusual to see a statue in the courtyard of a modern housing development.

. Why do you think the French government spends money on art for public buildings and housing?

Public parks and gardens in France also contain many statues and monuments. Some are new. Some may be several centuries old. As in most countries of the world, only a small percentage of people in France actually own works of art. Although many French people visit the art galleries and museums, others never do.

Some traditional art forms are still practised in France. Weaving, the making of fine china and metalworking are some of these arts. These arts have often been practised in the same region for hundreds of years. Weavings, jewellery and ceramics are usually made by individuals, at home or in small workshops. In Provence in southern France, for example, designers and weavers make cloth in traditional Provencal designs. The cloth is sewn into traditional articles or modern fashionable clothing, to be purchased by visitors and tourists.

France has long been famous for its castles and palaces. French architecture flowered in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, when kings and barons had ornate palaces built. The palace at Versailles, near Paris, is the best known of these spectacular stone mansions.

French cities contain many fine churches and cathedrals. Some are built in Gothic style, with soaring towers and arches. Others are shorter and more square, in Romanesque style. The most famous modern French architect was Le Corbusier. He believed that buildings should be practical rather than decorative. He was followed by other modern architects, who have designed buildings in many different styles.

The Impressionists

The Impressionists were a group of French painters in the late ]800s. Some of the most famous Impressionists were Monet (mo na'), Renoir (Re nwoi') and Pissarro (pe sah ro'). Unlike the painters who had gone before them, the Impressionists liked to paint outside rather than in a studio. They also liked to paint scenes from daily life. Many Impressionist paintings show flowers, street scenes, the inside of restaurants and people in boats.

The Impressionists were especially interested in light and water. At the height of Impressionism, an important theme was reflections on water. Impressionist paintings are known for their soft, delicate colours.

When people first saw Impressionist paintings, the colours and the subjects seemed shocking. Today Impressionist paintings hang in museums all over the world.