French History During Your Holiday Trip

Posted on: 8th July 2014

French History Holiday TripThe Age of Renaissance

When the wars between the Houses of Capet and Anjou reached their peak, the nationalism of the country appeared on the scene. It was during this period of nationalism that Joan of Arc helped in driving out the English rulers, which resulted in the Valois kings taking over the throne. Italian Renaissance rose over France between late 15th and 16th century, thanks to King Francois I, who brought many craftsmen and artists when returning from Italy. Among these artists was Da Vinci. After peace prevailed on the land for decades, fortresses start to transform into luxurious châteaux. It was during this time that the picturesque palaces developed in the Loire Valley. Chambord and Fontainebleau are the most magnificent of these palaces. They were influenced greatly by the Italian styles, and reflected the French court’s increasing centralization.

Places to visit: Cellini, Rosso, and Primaticcio used elongated forms, concentration on eroticism and allegory, and beautiful colours to establish the Mannerist style, which adorned the Palace of Fontainebleau. Classical models were preferred over vernacular and Gothic architectural forms, which are evident in the Loire Valley châteaux, such as Chambord, Chenonceau, and Blois. The rebuilding of the Louvre Museum in Paris commenced in 1546, which marked Italian architecture’s final mix into the country.

Baroque Style and Royal Absolutism

As a result of the conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, King Henry IV took over the throne. By the 1800s, architecture still had traces of Italian style, which is evident in the forms of Roman Baroque that decorate the churches of Paris. Many squares were the progeny of the new architectural style of Baroque. King Louis XIV ascended to the throne in the 17th century, but it was outside of Paris from where he ruled; Versailles was the location from where he ruled, and soon, the region came to symbolize the Sun King’s absolutist court. However, there was a reaction from the masses against the extravagant and luxurious life of the kings, which led to writers like Rousseau argue for political and social reforms. This led to the great French Revolution.

Places to Visit

Courtiers were ordered to settle down in the huge palace in Versailles so as to ensure coordination among all the bodies of political authority. This is when the golden age began in which art flourished across the country. Louis spent as much on art as he did on his wars. The palaces of Versailles and Louvre are evidence of his lavish expenditure. France was almost bankrupt in the early 1900s due to the lavish expenses of kings and their courts. For this reason, the courtiers retreated from the splendour of Luxembourg Palace and Versailles Palace to smaller houses, such as the Hameau farm, and the Musee Nissim de Camondo. After the Baroque came the Rococo style. The aristocracy was more diverted towards its cultural aspect rather than the political one; and, to quench their thirst for culture, artists like Fragonard, Boucher, and Watteau made charming paintings. The Lourve and Carnavalet has on display these amazing masterpieces.


The execution of Maria-Antoinette and Louis XVI marked the end of the Bourbon rule. After the terror of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte gained power. With the rise of Bonaparte came a new aesthetic and intellectual force – Romanticism. With this, artists withdrew from politics, urbanization, and growing industrialization, and focused more on the self and their inner feelings. Napoleon conquered a major portion of Europe during 1804-1814, but the Bourbon dynasty came to power after the disaster of the Russian invasion. Napoleon III came to power again during 1852-1870.

Places to Visit

History has always been a step behind art. Visit the Louvre to view the paintings of David and Greuze, Soufflot’s Pantheon, and Gabrie’s Petit Trianon that display arrogance against moral order. Napoleon’s Empire Style displayed a liking for classicism; visit the shrine of Les Invalides and Cour du Commerce Saint Andre on the Left Bank to see the Paris of Napoleon come to life. Romanticism soon overtook the rigid and formal style of neo-classical. Visit Musee Delacroix in Paris to get a deep insight into the expression of Romanticism.

The Modern Age

Baron Haussman was the person responsible for remaking Paris as the showplace of the entire continent. The Second Empire, under the reign of Napoleon III, brought the prosperity of France, as colonies were set up throughout the world, and the economy boomed. Prussia was victorious in its invasion of France, and destroyed the French culture. Romanticism was replaced by Realism, which is evident in Courbet’s works. The landscape painters of Barbizon School re-examined reality closely and developed Impressionism. Impressionist painters, such as Claude Monet, used bright and clear colours to create amazing masterpieces. Indulge a visit to Giverny so you can walk through Monet’s gardens that are like a three dimensional painting.

Places to Visit

Paris was transformed into the City of Light when big boulevards were developed to open up the dark city, and the Eiffel Tower was built in 1889, all thanks to Baron Haussman. The masters of Impressionism made modern life their subject and created spectacular works of art. Monet, Degas, and Renoir were among some of the super Impressionist painters of the 19th and 20th century. The famous Waterlily paintings of Monet were inspired by his gardens in Giverny. The most well-known paintings of Impressionism and Postimpressionism are on display at Musee d’Orsay in Paris, which include masterpieces by Gaugin, Vincent Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Degas. Picasso was the greatest painter of the 20th century, and his works are on display at Centre Beaubourg and Musee Picasso in Paris.

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