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"Opening a public museum is a Revolutionary Duty!": Graphic Books that Celebrate the Louvre

September 13, 2011 | Claire | Comments (0)

Louvre 
In 2005, the Louvre Museum in Paris began a fascinating and innovative collaboration with the French graphic novel publisher Futuropolis .   Wanting to build a bridge between the Louvre art collection and modern readers, the Museum commissioned a series of graphic books by top-calibre authors and illustrators, using its collection as a theme.  So far four books have been produced and translated into English, with a fifth slated to appear in 2012.  I've been following this series with great interest and pleasure since it's inception with Nicolas De Crecy's Glacial Period, and the latest offering, The Sky Over the Louvre, is in my opinion the most inviting of them all.  Gorgeous, imaginative and complex,  it is clearly the product of a country that takes its cultural institutions seriously.  

Sun

Authored by screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrier and illustrated by Bernar Yslaire,   The Sky Over the Louvre takes place during the French Revolution when the Louvre evolved (forcibly) from a royal palace to a public art gallery.  Carrier and Yslair focus their story on the relationship between revolutionary leader Robespierre and Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David.  Robespierre astutely grasps the power of art and image to inspire, and believes that "the Republic must defend itself with arms, but also with ideas, with images, with symbols...WITH BEAUTY!!".  He is also responsible for the quote in the title.  Robespierre asks David to produce two paintings, one of a Supreme Being with which he plans to replace the Christian idea of God, and one of Joseph Bara, a thirteen-year-old french revolutionary soldier who was killed and whom Robespierre is proclaiming a hero.  As David struggles over these  works, the two men engage in impassioned debate over questions of revolution and aesthetics.  Emotions run deep as David develops a fascination with an angelic-looking boy who models Bara for him, but who utters cryptic and increasingly dangerous anti-revolutionary statements.   

The Sky Over the Louvre succeeds beautifully in bringing some pivotal characters in French history dramatically to life, and it also succeeds as a work of art in and of itself.  It can be easily read as a stand-alone volume, but you might enjoy exploring the whole series.   Two of the first three volumes are in the TPL collection;  and hey, if they inspire you to visit a museum, don't forget about our Museum and Arts Pass program!

Glacial                SkyHours

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