Studying the Arts in the City of Lights

Stern College Honors Course Takes Students to Paris to Meet the Masterpieces

Paris, France, has been called the City of Lights, but for Dr. Marnin Young, associate professor of art history at Stern College for Women, it is especially intriguing as the “Capital of the Arts,” the title of a study abroad course offered by the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program this summer from June 4 to 14. Dr. Young, assisted by Meirah Shedlo, academic advisor and special projects manager for the office of the dean, guided 10 students in a study of modern art in the city where it was born.

Dr. Young lectures on the Oath of the Horatii Jacques-Louis David in the Louvre
Dr. Young lectures on the Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David in the Louvre

Their journeys took them to museums like the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou; on a walk through the Tuileries gardens and Montmarte, home of Toulouse-Lautrec and the Moulin Rouge; on a climb up the Eiffel Tower; and to major exhibitions of Mary Cassatt, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall.

“In seeing these exhibitions,” said Dr. Young, “we achieved one of the course’s goals: to see the city as foreign artists saw it as they created what we now call ‘modern art’ and to see their art within a global context. I also wanted to make sure that, like these artists who worked there, the students, now immersed in a city that wasn’t their own, had a rich cultural experience to help them appreciate Paris.”

This is the third class Young has led to Paris (he also taught a class in Italy with the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Honors Program of  Yeshiva College), and he comes back to the city because “the problems that 19th- and 20th-century Parisian artists struggled with in trying to understand modernity are problems that we, as Americans, also struggle with today: the relationship between high and low culture, urbanization, image-making, advertising, criticism of mass culture, even ‘fake news.’ Studying their art is one way we can think about, and perhaps find answers to, these problems.”

“We packed a lot into this trip,” Shedlo explained. “We took a full-day trip to Versailles, where we saw the Château de Versailles, including the Hall of Mirrors, the King’s Grand Apartments and the stunning gardens. We also enjoyed the famed water lily paintings of Claude Monet at the Musée de l’Orangerie, then visited Monet’s water lily pond at Giverny to experience his inspiration in person.”

In fact, that visit to Giverny was a high point for Yael Itskowitz. “This was my first exposure to art history, and one of my favorite moments was seeing Monet’s water lilies on the canvas and then in real life!” She also I also loved “how we started every morning at Korcarz, the kosher bakery, and enjoyed an authentic Parisian breakfast before starting our day! I gained more than I ever could have imagined from one course. Dr. Young made our visits to the various art museums interesting, engaging and applicable to our lives today.”

Young hopes to lead another course abroad soon, with Paris, Amsterdam or London as possible destinations.

Students at the Musée d'Orsay
(l-r) – Kneeling: Dalya Hirt, Alyssa Wruble, Lilly Gelman, Zoe Abboudi; Standing: Yael Itskowitz, Ashley Galitzer, Francine Szerer, Dr. Marnin Young, Rebecca Katz, Elana Rutner, Faigy Singer