Sketching in France: Paris, Angouleme, and Saintes

Jamie and I just came back from an inspiring two week trip to France, where we visited Paris, Angouleme, and Saintes. 

I knew the Musee d'Orsay in Paris would be an epic day, and true to its promise, I was completely overwhelmed. Taking in the Ingres, Bouguereau paintings, as well as the Naturalist painters and Impressionists was more than a full day's worth of viewing. Yet, it was the sculptures by Carpeaux that left me speechless. Carpeaux's sculptures contain that rare combination of not only perfect anatomy and structure but also, perhaps more importantly, the personality, gesture, and the life of the subject. I stood a long time looking at this sculpture, The Dance, commissioned for the Opera Garnier in 1869.


Because the museum is huge and I was eager to see everything, we did not have a lot time to draw. I chose to sketch this bust by Jean Carries because it's so unusual to find a bust of an infant. I'm not sure I captured it very well due to a lot of glare on the glass case.

study of La religieuse souriante, vers 1893-1894, Buste gres emaille 
(More samples of his work here)

I could spend a life time drawing in the Musee d'Orsay...


After a few days in Paris, we took a quick train ride down to the comic book festival Angouleme (in the town of the same name) where we met up with our friends, art book bookseller Stuart Ng, and Ted Mathot who was doing a book signing for his comic, "Rose and Isabel".

Comic book artists in France are like no other; the work is typically of very high quality, and the top artists are  revered for their ability to draw well. Fans line up to get their "dedicace", dedication drawings on the inside of the book by the artist, each of which is expected by fans to be unique.


After a fantastic time in Angouleme, we got on another train and headed south for the historic coastal town of Saintes, known as Mediolanum Saintonium when it was the Roman capital of southwestern Gaul. There, we met up with Jamie's father and step mother. We were all thrilled to see each other, and excited to be in Saintes, the center of art history and culture for the region, possessing a wealth of architecture, complete with The Arch of Germanicus, remnants of a Roman ampitheater, Roman baths, archelogical museum,  and  11th Century Churches.

 This temple of Roman fragments contained so many samples of decorative stone work, I wanted to draw it all. However, the choice was pretty obvious - the Julio-Claudian torso needed to be studied!



The temperature read 25 degrees the day we decided to study the Roman torso, and our hands really felt it! Given that my hands were turning to ice blocks, I decided to work on the line drawing as best I could from life, and then took several photos so I could finish the modeling of the form later.




Before we embarked on our return journey back to Paris, we sketched inside the Sainte-Pierre Cathedral in the center of town. I picked a warm spot to study some detailing on a plaque, but instead of the cold being a factor my problem this time was light! The dark interior of the church and the early setting sun made this sketch extra challenging. I couldn't get it all because I could barely make out my drawing pad and pencil.


For many years now I've admired the details in the decorative arts, many of which were created by artisans and craftsman whom we do not know. These artists contributed decorative details to churches, shrines, cups and saucers, pitchers, and on and on...I feel a certain brotherhood with these artists; the work I do professionally as an illustrator is how I earn my living, and is as close as I can get to contributing my skills to the culture. These artists were lucky that their work survived a 500+ years, whereas my digital-photoshop files for video games will most likely be lost in the binary ruins.

Before heading back home to San Francisco, we took a 2-3 hour train ride back up to Paris, where we spent two more nights, giving us enough time to spend an entire day sketching at the Louvre.


While I studied and sketched two Barye sculptures, Jamie sat in the main courtyard through the far archway sketching Hercules versus Achlous.


I was completely enamored by this particular case of sculptures by the Romantic period sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye. I wanted to draw them all, especially the elephants in the upper left, but the sun was setting and the room was getting dark. I was happy and felt honored to have spent some time studying these two gems from my favorite of the Romantic era sculptors.




Roman Emperor heads and incredible gilded ceiling at the Louvre. That's me in the center looking at a sculpture of Ceaser's head. Jamie took the above panoramic shot with his iphone using the "autostitch" app.

Before the journey, my father gave me an audiobook, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough, which I listened to on the plane ride back. I was thrilled to learn of the many artists who made the journey to Paris, over extended their stay, studied and made copies of numerous masterpieces in the Louvre (and even writing home about a few that made a deep impression on me). These fellow artists of the past also came away as I have done on this trip, feeling that our American culture lacks art and craftsmanship on the whole, and that striving for Beauty is a more than honorable quest.

I must get back to Paris.


A-T-G said...

I feel like I didn't even DENT the Louvre and I couldn't walk in the gardens at Versailles. So, I, too, MUST get back. Maybe we can go together sometime? Soon!

Craig Elliott said...

Wow! great work, and such a nice post- it is like a magazine article on your trip! It all makes me want to go back too!

Bon Chance!

-Craig Elliott

Julia Lundman said...

thank you for reading! I barely scratched the surface of what it was like to visit both museums and the roman architecture. I wish I could spend more like 2-3 months in France just for sketching. Actually make that six months...

What a place to get re-inspired.

Craig maybe next year you could do your book signing in Angouleme? It would be fun! I think we'll go back.



James Baker said...

you need a whole other post just about FOOD!

susan said...

I'm so glad you were able to have such a wonderful trip. I love this report and your sketches.

Don said...

Love this post, Julie. Can't wait to see more drawings.

Charles Santoso said...

Lovely drawing, Julia! :D look forward to seeing more.. and please post something about food too hehe :)

Cameron Chun said...

Awesomeness!! Thank you for sharing Julie. I am glad you had a great time.This is probably the closest I'll get to visiting Paris anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Julie, Your artwork is amazing. Tom is sitting next to me, and he says I should have wrote "exceptional" and I agree. My sister still has the house you made her for her wedding...she treasures it. Take care!

Beth Bishop

Julia Lundman said...

Wow Beth! It's so good to hear from you!!! I hope everyone is doing well. So great to hear that Linda still has the sculpture! :))

Are you on Facebook at all?

Take care,