The Greater Journey, Americans in Paris by David McCullough has been an inspirational read for me this summer. I reveled in the descriptions of Americans making the journey to discover Paris in the 1830’s. Through letters and diaries McCullough weaves a story of artists and medical students learning and enjoying Paris. What I found fascinating is that most returned home with the intent of contributing their acquired knowledge towards the creation of a more culturally rich America.
Among my favorite stories were those about ambitious artists. Painter Samuel Morse tirelessly painted day in and day out in the Louvre creating “Gallery of the Louvre”, now on display at The National Gallery. After set-backs in the art world, Morse later went on to create the telegraph, an idea he recalls germinating in Paris. McCullough also highlights the young prolific painter John Singer Sargent, considered a genius even then. Sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens studied and eventually set up a studio in Paris. His wife Augusta religiously wrote letters describing their daily life to her parents. Her accounts describe the ups and downs creating his first major commission, The Farrugut, which had me on edge!
Living in Boston while reading this was such a treat. I was able to see Saint-Gaudens work in person, the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial is located in Boston Commons. Sargent’s first solo show was in Beacon Hill, and his work can be admired throughout the city at the Boston Public Library, Museum of Fine Arts or the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
Photo by wallyg on Flickr.