Longtime artist and art educator Meg Carte shares some of the top stops on one of the most transformative journeys of her life: a group trip led by her friend, David Chang, Frost Professor of Art at Florida International University, through France following in Claude Monet’s footsteps. (Proof their tour was authentic? She carried a Jullian French easel—the exact same brand the impressionists used—along with her to capture the sights, just as the painter would have.) Here are Carte’s favorite cultural stopovers for your next hop across the pond.
Musée Marmottan Monet
“This is a gallery museum [in Paris] that most people don’t know about,” Carte says. “They have [Monet’s] original sketches from when he was growing up in Le Havre. When he was in school, he used to draw caricatures of his professors—he got in a lot of trouble for it, but he got some local grocery to let him sell them. Those are [at this museum] and also [his 1872 painting] ‘Impression, Sunrise’ which was what gave Impressionists their name.” marmottan.fr
Napoleon III’s Apartment
Tucked within The Louvre: Emperor Napoleon III’s actual apartments. Each room is every bit as ornate as you’d imagine, including a ceiling painted by Charles-Raphaël Maréchal’s of The Reuniting of the Louvre and the Tuileries by Napoleon III. “Most tourists don’t get to go up there; they don’t open it very often,” Carte says. If you’re able to see it, be sure to look up in the dining room, too: you’ll spy a sky adorned by Eugène Appert with clouds and fanciful birds. Richelieu Wing, Louvre; louvre.fr
Monet’s own home from 1883 to 1926 is arguably one of his best pieces of art: a living, breathing ode to his life’s work. There’s just one reality check: “I was disappointed at how crowded it was,” Carte recalls. “I wanted a picture of the [famed water lily] bridge without anybody else in it.” For a more private experience, consider booking during shoulder season—and arriving first thing in the morning. giverny.org
“We spent the night and checked out [Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Rouen] in Rouen. There was a hotel across the street and on the second story is a balcony where Monet painted Rouen at night…Looking straight across at the cathedral, [he would] line up six canvases and capture the light at different times of day.”
“This famous French art supply has the highest quality paints, oil pastels and so on,” Carte says. “Their main store is there across from the Louvre, right on the banks of Seine.” Plenty of boldfaced names in the art world used their materials, including Matisse, Gauguin, Chagall, Hockney, and, yes, Monet. “Picasso went in there one day and said ‘I want a paint I can use that doesn’t dry right away—something fast—and I don’t want to use a brush.’ That’s when they invented oil pastels—for Picasso.” sennelier-colors.com