FREN 4335 Journal 

La Tour Eiffel: An Enigmatic Cultural Icon

   The Eiffel Tower is without a doubt the cultural icon of France. It has turned into a symbol, which brings millions of people to the city of Paris from across the world to marvel its beauty and of course to take photos. But why is it that this tower has come to be such a cultural icon?

   After the Eiffel Tower was finished in 1889, it was considered controversial. It seemed as if the tower was constructed out of place. Architects, artists and monarchs hated it. It was an extremely contemporary structure so architects and artists thought it was hideous. It was originally built in honor of the French Revolution, therefore the purpose of the tower and the World Fair was to show the world how wonderful Paris is. However, it also represented the downfall of the Monarchy. I consider it a beautiful piece of architecture, because I feel it brings inspiration to millions of people. 

   I don't admire the Eiffel Tower just because it is THE popular icon of Paris. To me, the tower represents the great advance of science and technology to our society. It also represents a beautiful work of art, which is what architecture really is. Because in a way, this amazing structure portrays the role of a human playing god. 

   I think the purpose of visiting the tower is not only to take pictures of the architectural wonders of the structure, but also to feel inspired by it. Paris has brought so much inspiration to authors, painters and musicians that it makes me wonder what exactly is about the city that brings so much inspiration. I would observe the tourists and street vendors around the monument to see what is their purpose of visiting the tower.

Musée de Cluny 

   The Cluny Museum is a very religious place. Before becoming a museum of the Middle Ages, it was a Monastery named the Cluny Order. We have to understand that Christianity replaced Roman deities. There were still a lot of people without religious beliefs. So the Cluny Order were monks who believed that art was a way of getting people to believe in Christian values. This is why most of the artifacts of the Cluny Museum are tied to the Church.

   There are several differences between the wooden sculptures and the stone sculptures. There is a variety of stone sculptures that all seem to have the same expression of immobility to me as opposed to the wooden sculptures that have considerably more detail. This might be because of deterioration.

   The Lady and the Unicorn is a series of six tapestries woven of silk and wool. These works of art are from the 15th century. The series represents the five senses: taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch. On the sixth work of art, one can see the words À mon seul désir, which translates to "to my only desire". The sixth tapestry is associated with the sixth sense, a mystery. On every single tapestry the unicorn stands to her left and the lion to her right.

Taste: here one can see the lady eating sweets from a dish held by someone. Also the monkey is eating and she has the lion and the unicorn by her side.

Hearing: on this one, the lady is playing an organ, representing the sense of hearing.

Sight: on this tapestry the lady is holding a mirror where the unicorn can see the reflection.

Smell: here the lady is holding flowers representing the sense of smell. Also the monkey is smelling one of her flowers stating the sense of smell.

Touch: here the lady is touching the unicorn's horn with one hand.

Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals in Paris

St. Germain de Prés and Notre Dame de Paris 

   To me, our society has always categorized religion and heaven with everything that represents beauty. God is beauty. Everything heavenly is beauty. It's something very strange, because something beautiful to someone's eyes can be the total opposite to another. This is why the modern concept of beauty is very different. Now our society has changed. There is a wider range of beauty because our society loves imperfection, as opposed to the Middle Ages whom related beauty to perfection.

   Studying both St. Germain des Pres and Notre Dame, we can see a considerable amount of differences. First of all, St. Germain des Pres is more of a hybrid type of architecture, which parts of the structure date from the 6th century. It is a mixture of Romanesque and Early Gothic styles. The lower part of the structure is clearly Romanesque. It has the classic rounded arches found in Romanesque architecture. The walls are very thick too. It used to be a square tower until the upper part of the structure was constructed by Pope Alexander III during the 12th century. It contains Early Gothic style because of the pointed and thin arches as well as a considerable amount of detail on the pillars. 

   On the other hand, Notre Dame de Paris is a Gothic Cathedral. Gothic Cathedrals showed the amount of skill and talent the engineers had during that era. The Gothic style of architecture of Notre Dame was influenced from Spain. Gothic structures were all about innovation. It was about keeping stone from falling down using very thick but strong walls and roofs. Or at least thinner than Romanesque architecture. It was an attempt to defy gravity by using pointed arches. It also included enormous windows that filled the cathedrals with light. Notre Dame was originally a temple dedicated to Jupiter and the construction of this structure took approximately two hundred years to finish. The amount of detail is very impressive.

   In the Middle Ages, the majority of the population was illiterate. In order for one to be literate and have access to books, one had to be rich. The other options were to join a religious order or become a knight by engaging in a crusade. The three portals of the Cathedral have sculptures that portray a story, for the people who did not know how to read could understand by simply looking at the sculptures. The first entrance about the life of the Virgin Mary's mother, St. Anne. The center portal is about the last judgement, which is represented with Jesus and his wounds. The last portal is about the Virgin Mary being crowned.

Musée du Louvre

   The Louvre is often considered the best museum of the world. I don't know if it is the best, because I have yet to visit it as well as other well known museums, but I do know it is one of the world's largest museums as well as a historic monument. The Louvre was once a palace that was built in the late 12th century by Phillip II. When King Louis XIV relocated to Versailles, the Louvre turned into a place to display royal collections. 

   I think that Greek and Roman mythology has piqued the curiosity of so many different cultures because they were very innovative. The languages that we have today derive from their language. Some of the great roads they built around 43 AD are still here today. Their great sculptures and artwork leaves us speechless. Our political principles are derived from them. It is impossible for the world not to admire Greek and Roman culture.

   I think it is very important for us to know the stories of Ancient Mythology because they simply makes us a more educated person. If I know the story of my ancestors, why shouldn't I study the great civilizations that ruled earth at one point in time? I believe there is so much to learn from them. Artists were amazing and their philosophers are still studied to this day. Their literature is still studied today and all of their stories can teach us something.

   It is amazing to be able to appreciate the first ever form of writing that started in what is known as the cradle of civilization: Mesopotamia. Cuneiform is intriguing because it is often misunderstood that the earliest writing were hieroglyphics but that is false. The Sumerians developed cuneiform before.


 Before becoming a palace, Versailles was no more than a hunting lodge for King Luis XIII. During the reign of Luis XIV, Versailles became a beautiful palace. This palace was the symbol of authority. The purpose of Versailles was for Louis XIV to keep his aristocratic enemies closer to him. He could have chosen other existing palaces for them like the Louvre or the Royal Palace in Paris but he sent everybody to the outsides of Paris to keep them closer. 

   In the ceiling fresco, one can see the story of Apotheosis of Hercules by Francois Lemoyne. The painting shows the deification of Hercules upon his death. Kings like Henry IV and Louis XVIII believe in these stories and honor King Hercules.

   The Salon of Abundance is exactly what the name suggests. Abundance. An over exaggerated room with gold and green. There are several gods and goddesses in the gardens of Versailles like Apollo;this might be because King Louis XIV liked the sun god. He even refers to himself as the Sun King.

 The Pantheon and National Holiday and National Monuments

   The Pantheon is a place that serves as a tribute to all the people who died in order to make France an independent country. This place is the total opposite of Versailles, which represents monarchy. Here we only have heroes buried like Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Jean Jacques Rousseau. 

   In my opinion, my reaction towards the church being criticized is not a real shocker. I believe that in many occasions the church has had so much power and control over society. This is because with the fear of death and hell, the church has been able to control the people. Also working together with the monarchy makes it impossible for some people to thrive. I'm not saying that every religious person was like this but this was the rude reality of life. Maybe this is why during this time there was a huge belief in science and technology.

   In my opinion, the purpose of the Pantheon is to pay respect and tribute to those people who made it possible to live freely and to honor the heroes that made France what it is now. 

Sacré Coeur/Montmartre

 Montmartre is in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. The arrondissement got its name by a legend. The legend says that after the beheading of Paris's city patron, Saint Denis, Bishop Denis picked up his head and walked north for several miles. There is where the Church of St. Denis now stands and Montmartre means the hill of martrydom.

Sacre Coeur is located in a mountain. So high it is visible all throughout Paris. It was build in honor of the soldiers who lost their lives during the Franco-Prussian war. But the real reason of building the church was to "expiate the crimes of the Communards." Although the idea of building the Basilica may seem conservative, the architectural style is quite distinctive.

I think there is a statue of Joan of Arc in the church because at one point in time, she visited this place. 

Because of Napoleon's plan to transform Paris from a Medieval city unto an urban center, he gave a lot of land to his friends and financial supporters. This drove a lot of working class to the edges of the city like the outer arrondissements including Montmartre. Since Montmartre was outside the city limits, they were exempt from paying taxes. This made the place very popular including places like Le Chat Noir and Le Moulin Rouge. Montmartre will develop into a free wheeling area. These cabarets replaced the cannons that faild to change French tradition.

Musée de Rodin 

    One claims that Rodin is the father of Modern sculpture because of his innovative techniques used in his sculptures. There is no doubt that he was highly influenced by Michelangelo. However, unlike Michelangelo's sculptures that seem emotionless, Rodin's works of art have  a sense of motion. I think every sculpture shows ideas of a Romantic artist.

   On can see this in the "Greek Athlete". He is holding a disk, and we might think he is about to throw it, but his sculpture shows motion, enough for us to conclude that he is not even going to throw the disk. If we compare to Michelangelo's "The Dying Slave" in The Louvre, we can see that the level of emotion in Michelangelo's piece is fainter than in Rodin's sculptures.

   The differences between Giacometti's "Walking Man" and Rodin's are of movement and emotion. One cannot see an expression of emotion or movement in Giacometti's sculpture while in Rodin's, we can even see the flexing of the muscles that give us the impression that he is really walking.

 Musée d'Orsay

  The Orsay Museum is filled with Impressionist paintings. Some of these paintings were rejected by the Academie Royale des Beaux Artes. The reason they were rejected is because the paintings were different from Classical art. The Star is an example of this individual art.

   I think Impressionism was considered offensive because painters painted the truth of quotidian life, instead of works of art with religion influence. An example of this is Manet's Luncheon on the Grass (1863). It was considered so offensive because one can see gentlemen having a picnic with a nude woman. It means that "respectable" men looked for the company of prostitutes. It was crude, but very real.

   I believe Impressionism is valued by many across the globe for its innovative style. It was a big deal to have the courage and paint the "real" world in those times without being hypocritical. This movement gave artists true freedom of expression.

   In the 19th century, some critics said that Impressionism was just a fashion and not art. I think they thought this because the movement became popular but not totally accepted. Impressionism later became very popular. Fashion is totally different because it comes and goes with the passing of time. Impressionism on the other hand, had a stronger motive and left a mark in the world.

 Museum of Modern Art and the Pompidou Museum

   If Impressionism was a radical movement at its time, Modernism is a radical movement at its finest. Modernism refers to a break in thinking, therefore the ideas that these artists came up with were extremely innovative. I do believe that modern art was radical because artists now do art simply for a statement about art, not necessarily religion, beauty or love. For example, Marcel Duchamp exhibited a urinal and called it art. Too me this is more radical than Impressionism.

   I believe in a way that all art is avant-garde because artists are always coming up with new ways of expressing themselves through painting or sculpting and always try to come up with new ideas. 

   I think post-modern art is as radical as any other art movement. The reason this was done is that it was not about hoping, healing, and building new images to transform society, instead it was about destroying ideals that have anchored humankind.

The Museum of French Cinema 


   To me, French cinema is a little similar to Mexican cinema. There is a lot of drama in their film's and don't really make movies with themes like the United States does, for example Iron Man and all these other patriotic movies. To me cinema is indeed an art because if a painting expressed so many emotions, imagine what a scene can express. Cinema also created the art of acting to perfect the expressions a human can do to perfect a scene.

   Bazin's ideas in my opinion are true because photography is an early version of cinema. Taking pictures and realizing the stop motion technique gave a sneak peak of what cinema can be. Now that cinema is possible, it really permits us to see the true realism.

   Critics have acclaimed that Charlie Chaplin movies criticize modernity because in the movie Modern Times (1936), we can see that Charlie Chaplin works in a factory with an assembly line and other technology that the industrial revolution brought and on top of that it is being recorded by cameras and microphones and new cinematic technology. Therefore, it is technology using technology.

Natural History Museum 

  The Natural History Museum exhibits only works of art done by nature, instead of works of art done by humans. One can see the beauty of the species that walked the earth and see that we are animals as well. We do have a higher capacity of understanding so that this gives us the responsibility to take care of our environment and our planet, not a privilege. This environment in which we grow up has a limited life and on top of that we use the earth's resources, pollute and make other species extinct. 

   I think being human means being a resident of the planet just as well as any other species born here, the only difference is that we developed with a higher capacity of thinking than other animals. I think great leaders would have a bigger understanding of culture and humanity if they had the chance to study abroad.


   Giverny is 80 km outside of Paris. It is best known for the location of Claude Monet's house. Here, nature is seen as a work of art. The landscapes and even Claude Monet's house provide an amazing view of nature that make us feel how lucky we are to be part of this earth and to protect it.

   This place served as inspiration for many painters who started to paint the landscape. Therefore, nature is the final museum to contemplate. Nature has been such an inspiration to artists that a new artists have come up with a new type of art called "land museums" or "earthwork". These artists use the land and use natural substances such as water, soil, rock, branches, logs, concrete, asphalt and metals. Then they take pictures of it, because this eventually erodes like nature does. An example of this is the American landscape architect and designer Charles Jencks.