Travel Writing

Accessible Santa Fe
France Lends a Cultural Hand to New Orleans
Vicarious visit to  New Orleans Sculpture Garden [photos]
Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art was not spared by Hurricane Katrina,
but is now back in operation, brimming with more than 50 sculptures.
Wander five acres of paths and bridges, among moss-laden 200-year-old oaks.
Admission is free. Open Wednesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A wonderful experience to witness first-hand.



France lends a cultural hand to New Orleans

Web Posted: 03/31/2007 09:15 PM CDT
On the Web
New Orleans Museum of Art
The Historic New Orleans Collection
New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau
City Tours
The Historic French Quarter
If you go
The exhibition: ‘Femme, femme, femme: Paintings of Women in French Society from Daumier to Picasso From the Museums of France’
New Orleans Museum of Art
1 Collins C. Diboll Circle, City Park
New Orleans, LA
(504) 658-4100
www.noma.orgRunning until June 3, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday.
$15/adult, $14/senior, with lower rates for children, students and residents of Louisiana.Entering New Orleans from Louis Armstrong airport, about 12 miles from the heart of the city, you see the cranes before hearing jackhammers, and you know New Orleans is rebuilding. Airport Shuttle Inc. operates from the baggage claim area, at $13/person with direct service to French Quarter hotels. Taxis offer a flat rate of $28 (1-2 persons) from the airport. The quarter is very walkable, with limited bus and trolley service.
New Orleans Museum of Art is best reached by taxi, about $8 from the French Quarter. Both the museum and sculpture gardens are handicapped-accessible.
Spanning centuries with art and history
It’s a good time for the art and culture lover to visit New Orleans, with a variety of events and exhibits to peruse. Here are just a few. Historic New Orleans Collection,
533 Royal St.

“400 Years of French Presence in Louisiana: Treasures From the National Library of France”Almost 100 treasures from the Bibliotheque Nationale De France focus on the National Library of France’s extensive document collection from the 17th through 20th century. History buffs will be in heaven, viewing documents never before displayed in the U.S., including a 1681 manuscript map with watercolor depicting colonial territories acquired by the French between 1676-1680, treaties, drawings of early Louisiana wildlife, medals, manuscript maps, rare books and original plans for New Orleans. Through June 2.

  Helen Gallagher

Helen Gallagher
 Special to the Express-NewsNEW ORLEANS   The New Orleans Museum of Art is offering a powerful reason to include the Crescent City in your travel plans.

Touring storm-ravaged New Orleans two months after Hurricane Katrina, the French Minister of Culture and Communication, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, formulated plans for an art exhibition to demonstrate France’s solidarity with the city. The result: the exhibit, Femme, femme, femme , which brings together the weary people of New Orleans with their 19th century French counterparts.

The French government covered $1 million in expenses to organize the exhibit and transport the paintings. The French Regional American Museum Exchange obtained the works on loan from more than 40 museums across France, and more than 20 French and American corporate sponsors contributed to the project, giving a much-needed boost to the New Orleans arts community.

Femme, femme, femme journeys through the stages of life, emphasizing the role of women in relationship to others in society,

Auguste Trupheme’s “At School,” in a familiar theme of youth, shows a young girl in a dress and a plaid cape reciting her lessons. This 1897 painting was commissioned and sent around France to promote the ideals of public education. The representation of a girls’ school illustrated girls’ right to education and equality with boys.

Every working woman can identify with the hopefulness of Théophile Steinlen’s “The Posy Seller,” in which an optimistic young girl offers her flowers amid gusts of rain and wind in a nocturnal street scene. A similar realism is conveyed in the deepest earth tones of Jean Leon Palliere’s “The Orphan,” with a sadness and shared misery we know today.

Celebrating women

Also unusual is the show’s focus. Unlike exhibitions grouped by style or artist, this mix of genres yields the surprise of seeing works of famous painters alongside lesser-known French artists. Along with works of Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet and Pablo Picasso, art lovers in the United States get a rare opportunity to experience the works of less familiar artists, whose paintings of women offer sensitive clues to the mentality of their time. “Most are not represented in any American museum I’m aware of,” says E. John Bullard, NOMA’s director.”Particularly in the first section of the show, we see more traditional roles of women depicted, from childbirth to loss and grief, in dramatic and emotionally charged paintings. And we can relate to the trauma and sorrow of living here the last two years in New Orleans,” says Bullard.

With the evolving role of women, it is fitting that female painters are well represented, including works by Rosa Bonheur, the first woman artist presented with the Legion of Honor, in 1865, and Berthe Morisot’s proud self-portrait, created after a 20-year effort to gain acceptance among her peers.

Femme, femme, femme celebrates women, not as goddesses or utopian images of glamour, but in the honesty of the late 19th century when women went about their daily lives and occupations. Here they are revealed in joy and sorrow, work and sport, woven into the social history of France through tender depictions by great artists of the day.

While viewing Jean Béraud’s middle-class patrons of “La Pâtisserie Gloppe,” a famous pastry shop on the Champs Elysées, and many paintings depicting workers, errand girls, and Paris lit by gas lamp at night, I felt transported to France. Later, wandering the French Quarter, I felt the same experience there, among artists, street musicians and the whisper of gas lamps.

Laughter and awe punctuate the quiet of this 97-year-old museum when children see themselves in scenes painted a century ago. I watched as a 5-year-old ballet student closely identified with the images in Degas’ “Dancers on Stage” and tried to match their poses. An explosion of bright color conveys movement among the dancers, adjusting their shoes and tending to sore muscles, as Degas portrays the labor rather than the art of ballet.

A shared history

France’s loyalty to New Orleans has extended long past its 1803 transfer of the city to the U.S. as part of the Louisiana Purchase. Through the passion of the exhibition’s organizers, this show, with more than 80 paintings from across France, was assembled in one year, rather than three to four years usually needed to organize such an exhibition.”Both realistic and naturalistic, the real stars of the show are not the most famous painters, but the artists that are less familiar,” says Bullard.

“We encourage world citizens to visit NOMA to view this one-time-only grouping of some of France’s best-known works,” said French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte. “I am a great lover of the great city of New Orleans.”

You will be, too, when you visit both the city and this major art show, a singular achievement.

The New Orleans Museum of Art, founded in 1910, holds a permanent collection of more than 40,000 objects valued in excess of $200 million, most notably French and American art, photography and glass.

Helen Gallagher is a well-traveled freelancer and lover of New Orleans based in Chicago. San Antonio Express-News publish date April 1, 2007

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