French Civilization Seen Through Art Essay

832 words - 4 pages

To learn a nation’s civilization, especially in only three short months, is impossible. However, if the teacher is good, he or she will find good examples that can encompass the movements and events that happened throughout the century, which in the end will add up to a close representation of the civilization itself. In FRE3500, we covered almost 2000 years of the history of France, using not only the textbook but other materials, such as paintings, architecture, films and music, in order to see life as it was at certain periods of time. I especially loved that the emphasis was not only on history but also focused on many different types of French art that snatched us out of the otherwise monotone reciting of history and allowed us to get a glimpse into the past through the eyes of the people, who lived it. However, with so many options to choose from, it is hard to satisfy everyone, nevertheless, the choice has to be made in relation to the main themes of the lectures. For me, there were three pieces of art that I missed the most that not only interesting, but tell us a great deal about the time they were made and accurately portray French civilization.
One of my favorite composers is Jean-Philippe Rameau, whose music beautifully represented the time that he lived in, mainly the Baroque and Rococo era. His last tragedy in music, Abaris ou Les Boréades not only represents the Rococo style of music that was popular at the time, but already foreshadows the Neo-Classical Period, that would soon follow, with its Greek subject matter. During the early part of the 18th century, the light and airy style became more and more popular, replacing the heavier Baroque style. At this time, the nobility lived a frivolous, happy and uneventful life and the “Abaris ou Les Boréades (Suite and Dances) - 'Gavotte pour les Fleures et les Zéphirs” section of the opera reflects this view of life. It would be one of the last moments of optimism of the aristocracy, represented by the carefree flute that plays the music for the dance, before the Neo-Classical Period that will reawaken the ideas of morality, loyalty and honor, and lead to the French Revolution at the end of the century.
In my opinion, one of the greatest paintings of this pre-revolutionary time is the Oath of the Horatii painted by Jacques-Louis David. In this Neo-Classical painting, the focus is already shifting from the...

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