Hello, Olympia, My Old Friend

So my husband and I have been in the early stages of planning a future trip to Paris. Of course, one of the first topics of discussion has been to come up with a list of our “must do” items for each of us.

We come to this planning with very different perspectives. I’ve lived in the U.K. as a child and traveled throughout Europe then, including to Paris. I’ve also been to Paris twice in the past several years. In contrast, my husband has never been anywhere outside the U.S. except to Canada.

One day, after we were discussing our wish lists, he told me he didn’t think we needed to go to all of the Paris art museums. After all, I had already been to most of them on my own. Not being as art obsessed as I am, he just wanted to hit the high points to leave time for other exciting Paris sights: food markets, parks, Montmartre, and the endless historic streets. I agreed it made total sense – while hoping he didn’t notice my heart palpitating at the thought!

Of course, he’s right. I’ve seen the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, Little Dancer, the Thinker, Olympia, Impression: Sunrise, and the wall of Water Lilies at L’Orangerie. I’ve soaked in the Berthe Morisot collection at the Marmottan, and studied the progression of her style that it shows. I’ve stood in awe in front of the immense scale and opulence of David’s “Coronation of Napoleon” (as Napoleon intended) at the Louvre. Some of them I’ve seen two – or even three – times.

Selfie with Water Lilies
a selfie with a friend

But to me these works of art are not just sights to be checked off a list. They are friends to be visited, enjoyed, and experienced anew again and again. As I grow and change, both as a person and in my knowledge and appreciation of art, my relationship to my art masterpiece friends changes. What new things will Olympia’s piercing eyes say to me when I stand before her awash in new knowledge of her creator, Manet?

And of course, in a city like Paris, there are always new art friends to be made. An entire unvisited wing of the Louvre full of Dutch and Northern European masters calls to be explored. Tribute must be paid to Delacroix’s iconic “Liberty Leading the People” masterpiece that has somehow eluded my gaze on previous trips. And what about all of the museum’s ancient antiquities?

Like any wife, I want my husband to know my friends. He may never love them like I do. But he won’t have the chance to if I don’t introduce him!┬áBefore we take off for Paris, we are working together to improve both of our art history knowledge using sources like shows available on Amazon Prime and Netflix. It always increases your enjoyment of something if you understand it. I remember, as a child, staring at way too many museum displays and historic artifacts that I had no comprehension of. I know that my mother can vouch for the quantity of “I’m bored” whining that occurred as a result.

Ultimately, in the interest of marital compromise, I won’t drag my husband to every museum in Paris. (Even if I am tempted to.) But maybe, just maybe, along the way, he can can learn to at least like – if not love – my art masterpiece friends.

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