France inspires Lafayette Artists

A view from Mount Saint Victoire

A view from Mount Saint Victoire

Sabrina Mastronardo

Photos courtesy of Elisabeth Day ‘14  | The Lafayette

Four Lafayette students traveled through France on a Rothkopf scholarship this summer. Over two weeks in June, Elisabeth Day ‘14, Briana Howard ‘14, Will Rockafellow ‘14, and Mark Tajzler ‘14 wandered Paris and Provence streets, allowing French culture, landscape, and art to inspire their own passions as emerging artists.

Upon asking what was impressive about their trip, I was inspired by these students’ non-tourist like answers. Sure, the Eiffel Tower is massive and eating escargot for the first time is interesting, but they found enjoyment apart from the obvious.

“One of my favorite moments was sitting at the cafe where Vincent van Gogh painted his Night Cafe. I thought it was so cool to drink espresso in one of van Gogh’s paintings, or at least that’s how I saw it,” art and English major Elisabeth Day ‘14 said.

Students were to study the many French artists and benefactors of the 1900s. Through their studies, they broadened their own repertoire of art. The trip included a visit to Mount Saint Victoire, where Day also drew non-conventional inspiration that moved her inner-artist.

At Mount Saint Victoire, the group toured Paul Cezanne’s studio – to his outdoor painting locations “where he painted hundreds of pieces of this particular mountain. It is incredibly powerful to stand where a great master has stood and literally be able to see what inspired such iconic pieces in Modern art,” Day said.

“Seeing [Cezzane’s art] firsthand was an almost otherworldly experience,” art and English double major Mark Tajzler ‘14 added.

On this mountain, the beauty and serenity of France struck the student artists, just as it did significant artists of the past. Tajzler admits to once believing paintings of the mountain by van Gough and Cezanne to be abstract images.

“However, after spending a week in the exotic region with its sunny skies that rarely break for rain and its sandy hills speckled with vivid color owing to the unique plant life, those artists now seem more like realists to me in their depictions of the landscape,” Tajzler said.

“I walked along the coast and dipped my feet in the Mediterranean,” art and economics double major Bri Howard ‘14 said. “I saw flamingoes for the first time in my life, and really fell in love with Mount Saint Victoire. Every view of the mountain was mesmerizing.”

Apart from an invaluable, firsthand experience of distinguished artwork, the students profess leaving France with a greater love and appreciation for the country’s culture. “While many of my favorite artists are and were French even prior to this trip, the whole of France has a much more diverse and beautiful culture than I had originally envisioned,” Tajzler said.

Howard learned from the French to slow down and take time to observe, appreciate, and experience.

“Take an hour to spend on a few paintings instead of rushing around to see everything,” Howard said. “When you eat lunch, sit down and people-watch; when you do something put your full consideration into it. I loved the relaxation that came with studying in France.”

It does not come as a surprise, then, that the same beauty that moved prominent artists would similarly motivate the Rothkopf scholars.

“Traveling to France has inspired me to work harder and completely immerse myself in what I love to do.  It is not easy getting an exhibition space at the Pompidou or MoMA, but one day I want to create something that belongs there,” Day said.