Week 180 – Bastille Day


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Bastille Day Parade in Paris.  Photo Credit:  (c) Cultural Services of the French Embassy
This week is Bastille Day, annually celebrated in France on July 14th as a national holiday, commemorating the “storming of the Bastille” in 1789 by an “angry mob,” kicking off the French Revolution. Today, Bastille Day is also the date that in 1790 the Fête de la Fédération (Festival of the Federation), took place—the “birth” of France’s constitutional monarchy. Bastille Day is oft-considered the “July 4th” for France.

From the overly simplified highlights reel of French History, it is the period after the French Revolution, and specifically, uprisings and “revolutions” during June-July of 1830 (40 years later), that are, in my personal opinion, what have inspired some of the greatest works for art that document French History.

The Luxor Obelisk on the Place de la Concorde, Paris. Photo Credit:  (c) ArTo/Fotolia
One of what I believe to be the most dramatic monuments in Paris today is the obelisk at Place de la Concorde. Aka Place de la Révolution,  King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, amongst other notables, met their fate via guillotine at this very site during this historic period.  It is a dramatic reminder of the violence almost always inextricably linked to revolution.

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix, 1830.
Similarly, Les Misérables takes place in this later period of revolution in the 1830s. Delacroix paints the flag of the French Revolution in Liberty Leading the People, my absolute favorite romantic painting from the 1830s. (Sidebar: I love all things Delacroix and the wing of the Louvre that features the palatial works of art by this 19th-century French superstar oil painter in addition to Gericault, and others is my absolutely favorite “hall” of any museum in the world and possibly the most dramatic.)

There are too many others works of art and architecture from this period of French History, let alone French History as a whole, to count. 

To read my favorite books on 19th-century French art history by my dear friend, the great art historian Bridget Alsdorf, find them here

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There will be no end to the curveballs that life throws. As soon as you feel comfortable, another setback or new challenge will arise. Alyssa Rapp is driven to help people like her—the doers, those who keep swinging—seek to succeed in both life and career. Every challenge is an opportunity, are you making the most of yours?

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