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A Land of Art
The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World's First Artists by
Call Number: Libra N5310.5.F7 C87 2006
Publication Date: 2006
As preparation for visiting the caves at Lascaux II, the text discusses the history and theories regarding
Europe’s cave paintings, particularly those in France and Spain. While providing context, Curtis invites
the reader to share his own sense of mystery and awe not only for the images but also the painters,
some of whom, he argues, date to the late Neanderthal era. At one cave he writes that he felt “as close
as I would ever be--physically close--to The Truth.”
Claude Monet's Gardens at Giverny by
Call Number: ND553.M7 G5613 2013
Publication Date: 2013
Recently published in an English translation, this large-format book offers exquisite photographs of Monet’s personal gardens at Giverny. Lobstein provides context and details not only about the gardens as inspiration for Monet’s paintings but also about the friends and acquaintances who frequented them. The work serves as an excellent preview for an onsite tour.
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or borrow it from your local library
The Masterpiece by
Call Number: Van Pelt Library PQ2511.O4 E5 1999
Publication Date: 2008
For an in-depth, intimate--albeit idiosyncratic--look into the world of nineteenth-century French
Impressionist painters, nothing is better than Zola’s tale of Claude Lanier, a fictional artist imaginatively
drawn from the lives and works of Paul Cézanne, Edouard Manet, and Claude Monet. Cézanne and Zola
were schoolboys in Aix-en-Provence , but their friendship did not survive the serialization (1885-1886) and subsequent book publication (1886) of Zola’s novel. Warning: the work suits an avid reader best, coming in at 464 pages in the Oxford edition.
Portrait of an Artist
Toulouse-Lautrec: The Full Story. Channel Four (Great Britain), 2006. Run time: 120 minutes.
Art critic Waldemar Januszczak presents an in-depth biography of the controversial French painter. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s life encompassed aristocracy, obsession, and alcoholic and sexual excess. He is also responsible for a huge body of work, revolutionary in blurring the boundaries between high and low art. A century after his death, Januszczak argues that the artist remains the perennial outsider, undervalued by art historians.
View a preview below:
The Provincial French Countryside
Chateau de Chenonceaux. Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
Experience the essence of France through its rich culture, beautiful countryside, and stirring history. Discover medieval Carcassonne and the market town of Albi with its Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. Stay in charming Sarlat to explore the remote Dordogne, including a visit to the famous caves at Lascaux II and a leisurely afternoon cruise on the Dordogne River. Tour the Loire Valley's impressive Chateau de Chenonceaux. Visit dramatic Mont St. Michel, the famous D-Day landing beaches, and the medieval town of Bayeux in Normandy. Walk amid Monet's painterly gardens in Giverny. Conclude your journey in Paris with a walking tour and visit to the Louvre. (Description from the Penn Alumni Travel webpage).
Carcassonne. Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
Selected and Annotated By:
Bibliographer for French and Francophone Language and Literature
For more information about this and other excursions, visit the Penn Alumni Travel webpage.
France in the Middle Ages
Castle Sully. Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by
Call Number: Van Pelt Library DC97.5 .T82 1978
Publication Date: 1987
Among the plethora of medieval history books, nothing offers a more moving and dramatic read than A
Distant Mirror. First published in 1978, Tuchman’s chronicle offers a vivid presentation of a century of
conflict and change, including the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Plague, antisemitism, the Papal Schism
that divided Europe into two camps—Rome or Avignon--and much more. The narrative centers around
a French nobleman, Enguerrand de Coucy (1340-1397), who married the eldest daughter of Edward III of
England. In 1980 the book won the U.S. National Book Award in History.
Roman de la Rose Digital Library by
Publication Date: 13th through 18th Century
The Roman de la Rose, the work of two authors that was begun in around 1230 and finished about forty years later, is perhaps the epitome of French medieval literature, with a lasting effect on other European literatures of the era and beyond. The existing manuscripts are fascinating to browse through for the detail and beauty of the calligraphy and images. The Roman de la Rose Digital Library collects all extant manuscripts in digital form, including Penn Libraries’ copy.
Entire collection available through Johns Hopkins: http://romandelarose.org
Penn Libraries’ copy is available through Penn In Hand
Avenue des Champs-Elysées as soon from Arc de Triomphe. Courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
Paris, Paris: Journey into the City of Light by
Publication Date: 2011
Although plentiful, travel books are not always well-written or intriguing. Downie’s book on Paris, however, is considered a cut above the norm, a positive exception to the genre. An American expatriate, Downie arrives in Paris in 1986 from San Francisco and experiences the city with joy and a
sense of marvel. The book comprises essays or sketches of some of Downie’s more memorable encounters and pedestrian outings.
Not available through Penn Libraries, but borrow it from your local library
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier by
Call Number: Van Pelt Library ML650 .C32 2001
Publication Date: 2002
Carhart’s uncommon story, told with flair, is summarized by his publisher as follows: “Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign—Desforges Pianos—he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop’s imperious owner. Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into view. Luc, the atelier’s master, proves an indispensable guide to the history and art of the piano.”
France in the Second World War
Band of Brothers. HBO Home Video, 2002. 10 episodes. Running time: 705 minutes.
The HBO miniseries is universally acclaimed as the best film representation of D-Day. It is based on two books by Stephen E. Ambrose: Band of Brothers (1992) and D-Day (1994), which take a personal approach to the historic event by focusing on the viewpoints of individual soldiers in World War II. Directed by David Frankel as well as by Tom Hanks, the series stars Damian Lewis (currently seen on Homeland), Ron Livingston (currently seen on Boardwalk Empire), and Donnie Wahlberg (currently seen on Blue Bloods), among others.
View the trailer below:
Five Quarters of the Orange by
Publication Date: 2007
Much of this story takes place in a small village near Angers on the Loire, as the protagonist traces her routes back to her childhood town during German-occupied France. With a mix of the past – and the recipes that bring the heroine back to the present – the novel offers a glimpse into both the region’s fraught history and its idyllic locale in the French countryside.
Available on Amazon
and other online booksellers