Art Movement : Impressionism

Angelina Iosso,
SNHU Intern















When people think of French Artist one of the first thoughts is of the beautiful natural landscapes of Monet or the humanistic style of Manet. These two amazing artists, as well as so many others, paved the way for French artists to make their mark on the world through the beauty of their paintings and most notably through the Impressionistic Style. The Impressionism movement was popular at the end of the 19th century and focused on small thin brush stroke that meant to create a a juxtaposition between objects and the light touching them. This movement used everyday people, objects, events, and relationships and casted them in a natural light to tell a message to the viewer of the paintings.


Female Impressionists: Berthe, Cassatt, and Gonzalès


The Impressionism movement was huge for women. Because of past social mores, Women did not have the same access to artistic education that men did. One of the reasons that they could not create a name for themselves before the Impressionism movement was because artists needed to study anatomy to create beautiful paintings of the human form. These nude figure drawing classes were unheard of for women to attend which held them back from realizing the true extent of their talent. With the Impressionism movement, rather than the Neoclassical or Romanticism movement, the subject of the painting was no longer the human form but rather of human interaction with their natural landscapes. The impressionism movement was all about telling a modern story through art. Women were able to branch out and finally join the canon because they were able to put their own spin on art and learn from famous painters without worrying as much about the social stigma.

That is not to say that in the time of Impressionism there were no social rules women of class had to follow. Unmarried Women were expected to always be accompanied by a chaperone when leaving the house, and in the home were expected to be practicing decorative arts like embroidery, drawing, or painting always in the presence of other women. Because it was expected of them, many women spent their time invested in the arts but it was still hard to branch into the movement without the help of other respected artists or their affluent families.


Mary Cassatt

One female Impressionist artist, Mary Cassatt, was able to create a name for herself in the Impressionism movement. American born, her and her family moved from Pennsylvania to France in the late 1800s. There she continued practicing her craft and exceeded in exhibiting her work among other Impressionist artists with the help of a new friend, Edgar Degas. Degas is one of the more prevalent Impressionist painters, many of his paintings depicting women in movement. Mary Cassatt created many different intimate paintings of women from a woman’s perspective throughout her artistic career. Most of her more famous paintings depicted the relationship between mother and child that she was able to observe between her sisters and their children. Never having married herself, Mary Cassatt lived with family but created a very strong career for herself that supported her well. Her paintings made it into the Paris Salon many times and she is known as a great Impressionistic painter.

Here are three paintings that showcase Cassatt’s take on the Impressionistic style.

Pictured : Breakfast in Bed, The Child’s Bath, Young Mother Sewing

Eva Gonzalès

Another female Impressionism artist I am going to highlight is Eva Gonzalès. Eva Gonzalès started as a pupil of Édouard Manet. , and she learned a lot of her art style from him. Her style closely mirrored Manet’s Spanish period of art. She painted representations of everyday life, deeply marked with Manet’s guidance and influence. Her work may not be as innovative and bright as other artists like Berthe Morisot or Mary Cassatt’s pieces, but the neutral somber tone of her paintings set Gonzalès apart from others. Even towards the end of his career, when Manet drifted back to color, Gonzalès continued to retain her neutral color scheme, and this individualized her work from other prominent artists. Gonzalès showed the Impressionism movement through her own eyes and learned the craft through her close study with talented artists such as Édouard Manet. She died of childbirth at the height of her career before she could reach her true potential.

Here are two notable paintings Eva Gonzalès completed: Une loge aux Italiens (A Box at the Italian Theater), and Morning Awakening.


Pictured : Une loge aux Italiens and Morning Awakening

Berthe Morisot

Berthe Morisot was another famous female artist. She, along with Cassatt and Marie Bracquemond, were a part of a group of three women named “Les Trois Grandes Dames” or “The Three Great Ladies” of the Impressionism movement by critic Henri Focillon. Berthe Morisot was immersed in the artistic community. She was privileged to attend formal schooling for art and was a part of the Paris Salon many times throughout the end of the 19th century. Morisot continued her craft professionally after her marriage to Eugène Manet, Édouard Manet’s brother. Berthe Morisot worked closely alongside her brother-in-law Édouard Manet but continued to incorporate her independent flair into her own art. She focused her paintings on working, sophisticated, and well-dressed Parisian women. They were at the forefront of Berthe Morisot’s work. Throughout her long career, she continued to work freely and independently while showcasing the best aspects of the Impressionistic art style in her unique way.

Here are some vastly different paintings she created throughout her long career as a notable female impressionistic artist. The first is In England , showcasing her husband Eugène. The next painting is The Cradle. Finally, Self Portrait of Morisot.

Pictured : In England, The Cradle, Self Portrait




Cinderella and Other French Fairy Tales

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


Hans Christian Andersen

Everyone knows at least one of the classic fairy tales. Maybe it’s one of the more popular tales, like Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, or a less famous one like Bluebeard. Perhaps you heard your tale as a bedtime story, or maybe you’ve seen Disney’s cartoon version of the tale. You may not have known the writer of these stories wasn’t Disney or Hans Christian Andersen or even the Brothers Grimm, but Frenchman Charles Perrault.


Charles Perrault

Perrault began his career as a lawyer and politician and became known for his writing later in life. He was part of L’Académie Française and heavily involved in the Ancients versus Moderns controversy. This 17th-century literary debate in France and England disputed the relevance of classical Greek and Roman writings to the modern era. The Ancients firmly believed classical writing was the exclusive standard for literature. The Moderns, inspired by recent scientific discoveries, believed in the evolution of literature. Perrault was a Modern in this debate. 


Perrault eventually made peace with the Ancients. He wrote his fairy tales under his son’s name, or 

Classical Greek

even under the name Mother Goose, so he didn’t upset the Ancients again with his modern writing. He is credited as being the father of the entire fairy tale genre, although he didn’t invent many of the tales he wrote. Most were folktales with ancient origins, and he was the first to collect them and write them on paper. He also aimed these stories at children, telling them in a simplistic yet literary manner, demonstrating his principles as a modern. Neither of these things had been done before. He called this collection Contes de ma Mère L’oye (Tales of Mother Goose). Some of the most remembered stories in this collection include Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Puss in Boots, and Cinderella. By writing these tales on paper, Perrault preserved the 17th-century version of these stories. 

Little Red Riding Hood

The story Cinderella, Cendrillon in French, is an excellent example of a tale that has evolved. It began as a simple rags to riches folktale, likely of Chinese or possibly Egyptian origins. Perrault’s version told of a beautiful and good young woman forced to live with her father’s new wife and her cruel daughters. She slept next to the fireplace and is perpetually covered in cinders, where she gets the nickname Cinderella. One day, the Prince of the region hosts a ball and invites all the ladies so he might find himself a wife. The stepsisters are allowed to go, but tell Cinderella she has to stay home. Cinderella’s godmother takes pity on her and uses her magic wand to turn a pumpkin into a carriage, mice into horses, a rat into a driver, and lizards into footmen. She turns Cinderella’s rags and wooden shoes into a splendid ball gown and glass slippers. Then sends Cinderella to the ball with a warning to be back before midnight. At the ball, Cinderella catches the Prince’s eye, and they dance until the clock chimes midnight, and Cinderella runs away as her carriage turns back to a pumpkin, and her dress again becomes a dirty grey kirtle. The Prince throws another ball the next night, and again Cinderella dresses up her stepsisters but isn’t allowed to attend herself. So, her fairy godmother helps her out, and she gets to dance with the Prince once more. But this time, as she runs back home at the stroke of twelve, she’s in such a rush she leaves behind one of her slippers. No one at the ball knows who Cinderella is, so the next day the Prince takes the slipper to every maiden in the countryside to find his mysterious princess. 


When he gets to Cinderella’s house, both stepsisters try on the slipper, but it’s too small for them. It’s jokingly suggested Cinderella tries on the slipper, and when she does, it fits perfectly. She shows everyone the other slipper, and the Prince recognizes her as his lovely princess. They get married, and live happily ever after, as king and queen. And because Cinderella is so good and forgiving, she invites her stepsisters to live in the castle. 


It was Perrault who added the details of the magical godmother, the pumpkin carriage, and the glass slippers. The next step in the evolution of this tale was when the Brothers Grimm retold the tale in a darker and even more fantastical manner. In their version, the stepmother and stepsisters are crueler than the French version. When the Prince brings the slipper (gold, not glass, in their retelling) to their house, they are so desperate to make it fit, they cut off their toes. And instead of Cinderella inviting them to live in the castle with her happily ever after, she convinces crows to peck out their eyes, cursing them blind for their wickedness. The Brothers Grimm also made this story more fantastical; Cinderella can talk to the birds, and they help her when she needs it. 


Disney’s Cinderella


To bring this ancient story to a modern audience, Disney made it into a cartoon movie. The movie features the storyline closest to the Brothers Grimm version, but with much less darkness. The animals talk, there’s plenty of singing, and no one cuts off any toes. 


None of these magnificent tales would have survived to the modern era if not for Perrault’s preservation and popularization of them, or if others hadn’t adapted them to fit audiences of different times. Today, these tales continue to evolve, with retellings through many lenses.

François Bibonne: The Man Behind Preserving Classical Vietnamese Music

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern














One man who dreams of telling his grandmother’s story is set to revolutionize Vietnamese music later this year. François Bibonne, a documentary filmmaker from France, has shot and produced a documentary for release next month. The documentary, titled Once Upon a Bridge in Vietnam, seeks to explore classical Vietnamese music throughout time and cement its legacy in history. Bibonne, who holds a master’s degree in Contemporary History, will combine his passions of classical music and film with his family history. Bibonne’s grandmother, a native of Vietnam, will help guide the film’s production. Throughout the later months of 2020, Bibonne traveled from village to village in Vietnam, learning everything about the unique music styles in each region.

Opéra de Saigon

Two important opera houses in Vietnam are crucial to the classical music scene: Ho Chi Minh City Opera House and the Hanoi Opera House. The opera house in Ho Chi Minh City, also known as the Opera de Saigon, hosts some of the biggest and influential artists and concerts each year. A few of the biggest pianists and violinists have played in the Opera de Saigon over the years. The Hanoi Opera House, or the Grand Opera House, is also home to many large concerts and events throughout the year. As the capital city of Vietnam, Hanoi is a bustling city with tons of cultural impact. A third, but much less significant, opera house is in Haiphong. While the city itself is a center for culture and industry in Vietnam, the opera house in Haiphong is nowhere near as influential as the others in the classical music scene in Vietnam. 


Hanoi Player


Despite French influences in many aspects of Vietnamese culture, their musical culture has remained independent of these French influences. “‘This idea of classical music is very different here, because in France… we have like 

François Bibonne speaks to Nguyen Van Cuong

Baroque music and contemporary music and classical music and all the stuff, Western classical music. Here {in Vietnam} they have this, but they also connect that to traditional music and to the Vietnamese folk songs,’ François told Việt Nam News.” The goal of Bibonne’s documentary is to highlight this distinct version of classical music. “I think we know quite well the place of classical music in Japan, China or even South Korea, but not enough in Vietnam in my eyes,” Bibonne says. 


In an interview with a Vietnamese news outlet, François Bibonne recalls his time in Vietnam two years ago, listening to the “backdrop of classical music performed by the great ensembles of the country.” During this visit, he was first introduced to the nuances of classical Vietnamese music. “When I am with the musicians, we are all immersed in an atmosphere relaxed, unprofessional, a million miles from what we know about European classical music. It allows me to reexamine the role of professional musicians while watching them evolve. They all tell me that we play to be happy!” he continued. 

Unlike classical music in the Western world, Vietnamese classical music takes on a special tone and style. Traditional

Speaking with Orchestra Director

folk song and culture is a prominent theme in the classical music scene. Often, both folk songs and classical music tell a traditional story, one that resonates with the Vietnamese audience. This unique style of classical music drew Bibonne, both as a music enthusiast and as a person of Vietnamese heritage. Classical music in Vietnam tells powerful and unique stories, which is something Bibonne believes is worth preserving. The documentary Once Upon a Bridge in Vietnam, will focus on preserving a traditional sense of Vietnamese classical music, discussing Vietnamese history and heritage, and introducing new ideas of classical music styles to the Western world, Bibonne’s most prominent audience. 

Throughout the pandemic, Vietnamese musicians have been forced to cancel all live performances. As vaccine rollout

Vietnamese Orchestra

begins, albeit slowly, the music industry is opening up again. The “We Return” concert by the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra (VNSO), performed in June 2020, served as the massive reintroduction of music culture back into Vietnamese life. Now, in August, Vietnamese classical music will reach a broader audience as Bibonne’s documentary releases. 

Art Movement : Romanticism

Angelina Iosso,
SNHU Intern

Romanticism emerged in France at the turn of the French Revolution at the end of the 1800s. Romanticism fought against the ideas of the Enlightenment period and the Neoclassical period. The Enlightenment period focused on reason and individualism, Romanticism fought against that by putting the focus on nature or human action. This was to rebel against the idea of order and instead put the focus on the chaos happening in the real world. The Romantic Era peaked between the 1800s to the 1850s. During this time, the world was in turmoil, especially in France. It was post revolution in France but still reeling in the Napoleonic Era. When he was emperor, Napoleon sanctioned a turn back to the Neoclassical style which focused on order and praise for the past. Even though Napoleon was pushing this classical style forward, the new ideas of Romanticism were still moving their way throughout all of Europe and settling in France.  


Romanticism went against the idea of the mighty past and looked toward the future, and the impact the present will have on that future. Many artists used their platform to practice this style and find the Romantic in the everyday, especially natural events. They wanted to impact the viewer, and the artists did that through dramatic, emotional, and colorful pieces. One artist that exemplified the chaos of Romantic art was Théodore Géricault.  


Théodore Géricault used his artistic prowess to paint presentday events with magnificent scenes. In one of his most famous paintings, The Raft of the Medusa, he took a present day event and turned it into an almost historical painting depicting the gruesome aspects of what was happening in the present. The Raft of the Medusa depicts a gruesome shipwreck was a recent devastating event and Géricault painted it in pristine detail. This shocked viewers of the painting because the horrors of everyday life were not usually what art portrayed in that time. Modern artists take inspiration in present events all the time, and in other styles of that period, this was not the case. Before Romanticism, the art was frivolous, in the Rococo style or depicted actual historical events like in the Neoclassical movement. The art could be used as an allegory for present day events, but usually were not actually based on the present day. The Romantic Era switched this up. 



Géricault depicting this event shocked people because it forced the viewer to see the historical significance that presentday events can have on the world. He put this recent shipwreck in the same style as past major paintings to put this event on par with those major historical events. In doing this, Géricault made a statement about the importance of this event and showed people why they should care. By using The Raft of the Medusa painting to show the importance of learning from the present, Géricault exemplified the ideas of Romanticism in his art.  


Hubert Robert was also a father of the Romantic period. Hubert Robert was sometimes called Robert de Ruins because of his focus on idealizing the ruins of the structures he painted. Robert studied art in Italy, so many of his paintings were of Italian structures and this one pictured is The Imaginary View of the Grand Gallery of the Louvre in Ruins.



Robert was a quintessential Romantic painter because he took powerful and culturedefining monuments, similar to the Louvre, and showed how naturally without human intervention they would stand up to the test of time. This dilapidated view of a historical monument once again made viewers of the painting feel emotional about the subject.  


Romanticism is all about how much of an impact the artist can have with their art on those who view the piece. Romanticism is allowing the viewer to feel emotion about their present so they can think about where they want to go in the future. Robert painted these structures as swallowed up by the natural elements to show the viewers even such important places in history are not protected from the passage of time.  


Lastly, you cannot write about the Romanticism era in history and not include Eugène Delacroix. Delacroix’s paintings became the face of Romanticism in the 19th century. From the beginning of his career, he was the leader of the school of the French Romantics because of his dedication to the ideas of the Romantic Era. Delacroix painted historical events, but recent ones were still present to the general public. One of his most famous works that has gone down in history is his painting Liberty Leading the People.  


Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix is an iconic representation of French history vivid art. A female representation of Liberty is seen brandishing the French flag and charging into the revolutionary battle. The men in the foreground are following her and fighting for her. These men fighting around her show how far reaching the call for liberty was during the revolution because different classes are fighting for the cause. There are members of the bourgeoisie, the man on the left of the painting with the larger musket, fighting with members of the working class, like the man standing with his arm raised to the right of the painting. Delacroix wanted to show how the call for liberty was reaching everyone, and the fight is by all not the working class.  


This piece was not received well during its inception, especially since Delacroix was a royal painter, but it still made its mark on history. Liberty Leading the People has become a symbol of so many other notions and causes. Delacroix used the Romantic style of dramatizing the present to show the importance of this symbol to the French people, especially after the Revolution.  


Throughout history, the likeness of this scene has been used to create an allegorical symbol for the new viewers throughout recent history. This has been through the art of the time of the painting and recent art as well. Two recent examples of this artwork creating an impact on history are in two vastly different mediums. One medium Liberty Leading the People was used in the cover art of Coldplay’s album Viva La Vida. 



Another representation of this painting in modern day media is as symbolism in the 2012 musical adaptation of Les Misérables. The writer, Victor Hugo, was a Romantic era poet. Les Misérables was an iconic play about the hardships going on in France during the French Revolution. This play has stood the test of time and in it, the Romantic Era theme has traveled with it.   


Les Misérables
(2012 adaptation)

This scene and many others are shown of the characters on the brigades in the same triangular formation as showcased in Liberty Leading the People. This shows the Romantic Era themes are not only interesting to learn about in the time of inception, but are now still a portion of French culture that is impacting the present day. 


More information can be found on Les Misérables and other works by Victor Hugo in last week’s post .

Victor Hugo: Les Misérables and Beyond

Ana Tunberg, SNHU Intern












Do you hear the people sing? Les Miserables is one of the most well known musicals to
date, and one of the most long-standing musicals on Broadway. Additionally, it was converted into the award-winning motion picture of the same name in 2012. With gripping characters, a complex storyline, arguably some of the best acting roles for both stage and screen, and beautiful and cathartic music pieces, Les Misérables has captured audiences far and wide for decades. However, the lesser known fact of the musical is that it is not only based on true events, but it is based on famous French author Victor Hugo’s timeless novel Les Misérables. The musical closely follows important plot points and characters of the novel, although many parts had to be left out due to the fact that the book is one of the longest written novels in all of history. The book Les Misérables is an important literary and historical artifact of French culture, as it highlights important events and defining values of French culture through their history. Victor Hugo himself was a very interesting and important figure in French history, and he put French literature on the map of timeless literature classics that is still recognized globally.

To summarize (spoilers ahead!) Les Misérables follows an ex-convict named Jean Valjean who seeks redemption and living a better, more fulfilling life after his time in prison.  Valjean has a religious awakening as an ex-convict, and attempts to escape his identity in order to lead a better life than being a convict would allow him. Along the way, he becomes Mayor, and adopts Fantine’s child after she passes away. Fantine led a life of hardship, loss, and illness, and her one wish to Valjean was to have her child cared for. In order to give her justice and peace, he loves this child, Cosette, as his own. He spends most of his life running from a police officer named Javert, as he knows Valjean’s identity the best. Javert believes he is doing the right thing by pursuing the convict. Valjean lives a life full of giving, kindness, and love, and escapes from the system that condemned him. Valjean also meets a group of poor schoolboys leading a rebellion against the government due to an unjust system that causes their suffering. This important aspect of the novel, as it centers around an unjust system that condemns the poor and forces them into a life of pain (this is also the reason Valjean became a criminal- his family was poor and starving and he had to steal), is based on the true events of the June Rebellion, which was a republican uprising against the monarchy, in Paris in 1832. Eventually, Valjean confesses his true identity to his daughter, saves her lover in the tragic rebellion and allows her to marry him, and he dies at peace. The end of the novel centers around the famous quote “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise,” which signifies hope after suffering. There are many more characters and subplots within the large novel, but these are the most important plot points
and values that the novel is known for.


Victor Hugo was not only a phenomenal author- he also led a very tumultuous, artistic, and interesting life, making him a fascinating person in French History. He was a poet and novelist and was an important figure during the Romanticism movement. To put it simply, Romanticism in literature covered much of the 19th century and focused widely on human connection, intrinsic turmoil and morals, cathartic writing, and deep-rooted emotions. For reference, Gothic literature is a subcategory of the Romantic movement. Romanticism showed opposition and pushed back to the previous period of Enlightenment, and was criticized by many academics due to the emotionally- driven focus of the Romantics. However, ultimately the movement spread globally and became a defining era for all arts, such as visual art, literature, and music.


“There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” -Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo’s life was fast-paced from the start. He was born Victor-Marie Hugo in 1802. He moved around a lot due to the fact that his father was in Napoleon’s army. His mother was a devoted Catholic woman. Due to the constant moving, Hugo’s mother separated from his father and lived in France with her children. Both parents had other relationships while separated, but eventually Hugo, his mother, and his siblings rejoined Hugo’s father in Spain in 1811. An important fact in Hugo’s life is that his mother and siblings lived in a convent while his father fought in the Peninsular War (before they rejoined him). A conspirator named Victor Fanneau de La Horie, who also hid in the convent, became a mentor for Hugo. When Hugo was only fifteen, he won an honorable mention award for writing a poem for a contest sponsored by the L’Académie Française.


On top of Hugo being a profound artist and writer, who was elected to the L’Académie Française in 1841 (although he had to fight to get in as a Romantic artist), he also led a profound political life that influenced his works. He became a member of the Upper Chamber of Parliament in 1845, and fought against the death penalty, social injustice, and fought for freedom of press and self- government for Poland at the time. He was well known for fighting for third class people, and his speeches were famous for fighting against poverty and the death penalty. When Napoleon III rose to power in 1851, Hugo called him a traitor to France, moved to England, but was then banished from England due to his written criticisms of Queen Victoria. He then lived in exile on the island of Guernsey from 1855 until 1870. It was during his exile that he continued to voice his strong opinions against Napoleon III and fighting for those less fortunate, including speaking of support towards ending the slave trade.


It was also during his exile that Hugo wrote Les Misérables, which speaks volumes about the themes of hope, suffering, and fighting for what you believe in. Hugo was exiled for voicing his opinion, and his strong support for those in poverty and despair shined through in the cathartic third class characters that starred in his novel. He wrote his novel during the time of the June Rebellion, which was a tragic rebellion that ultimately failed and resulted in lots of bloodshed. However, Hugo could capture the courage and meaning of the rebellion, which is fighting and dying for justice and love, resulting in a hopeful future. This event otherwise might have been forgotten in history, but Hugo’s novel and its meaning aids in remembrance of an important aspect of French history, literature, and culture.


Another important novel by Victor Hugo is The Hunchback of Notre Dame which also has notable values like love and was also converted into a successful musical and a well known animated Disney motion picture musical. Besides his well-known novels he wrote various poems that also represent his values, empathy, character, and artistic voice. Hugo’s connection to values, love, and empathy along with caring and fighting for those less fortunate as represented through his life and art makes him and his works important in French history. He and his pieces also serve as a signifier for the values French culture became known for during this tumultuous time in history and he helped keep these important French cultural values alive through his timeless pieces, allowing them to be celebrated on a global scale.

Le Tour de France

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


The Tour de France is a prestigious cycling race for the world’s elite bicyclists. It is a 21 stage route. These stages take place in a variety of landscapes, from the streets of Paris to steep roads through the Alps. The course is traditionally contained to France but sometimes dips into neighboring countries. There are nine riders on each of the 22 teams from across the globe who will compete in this 23-day event. The race will begin on June 26 in Brittany and will be an astounding 3,383 kilometers. 


2021, the 108th race, will be a bit different. Teams will have to be bubbled, and individuals will be frequently tested for COVID. Anyone who has a positive test must be isolated. Fortunately, this year’s race won’t need to be as strict as last year’s. And many aspects of the race, such as the four jerseys and the intensity of the competition, will remain the same as they’ve always been. 



The four famous prize jerseys will still be awarded after each stage of the race to be worn in the following stage. The polka dot jersey is awarded to the best biker through the mountains, the white jersey is awarded to the best young rider under 25, the green jersey is awarded to the highest point scorer, and the famous yellow jersey is awarded to the overall best cyclist or the race favorite.


There are also some things about the Tour de France that  many think it’s time to change. Women weren’t allowed to compete in the first race, and they still aren’t allowed to compete today. Other alternative bike races have been created for women in the past, but none were as long or as grueling as the men’s Tour de France, and many didn’t last long. As with many women’s sporting events, sexist beliefs and a lack of press coverage lead to a lack of funding, which means the events cannot continue. 


La Course by Le Tour de France


Some argue an event equal to the Tour de France needs to be created for women; others think it would be best to allow women to compete in the main Tour de France. It could be organized like a marathon run, where one group starts ahead of the other. So although they are competing on the same track, their times may be kept separate and they aren’t in direct competition with each other. Tradition is important to this competition, but it is also important that traditions evolve.


These traditions stretch way back. A journalist named Géo Lefèvre created the idea for such competition in 1903 as a publicity stunt to boost sales of his sports newspaper, L’Auto. Lefèvre’s editor/director was a bike enthusiast himself and loved the idea. A 15-hundred mile 6-stage loop around France was developed and on July 1, 60 men began the first stage. Most were French, but a handful of Belgians, Germans, and bicyclists from other nations joined the competition too. 23 riders abandoned the race during the first stage, and only 21 riders completed the race. There was a 64-hour gap between the race champion and the last completer. 



Although the race was even more of a challenge than many expected, it was still a resounding success. Sales of L’Auto boomed, and people loved the race so much, it happened again the next summer, and the summer after that. Today, 108 years later, the Tour de France still takes place every summer in Europe.


The BEST Act

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern










One of the biggest goals of the Franco-American Centre is to promote the global spread of French and the heritage of Franco people worldwide, especially in New Hampshire. Part of this is promoting bilingual education and biliteracy, including school children at all levels. The BEST Act aims to increase biliteracy across the country and interests the FAC. We would like to thank Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire for their time and diligence in answering our questions about the Act and its progress in the Senate.


What is the BEST Act?

On March 10th, 2021, Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii introduced the Biliteracy Education Seal and Teaching (BEST) Act in the United States Senate. Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire was an original co-sponsor of the bill. This bill proposes the introduction of state grants which can be renewed every two years; the grants are to be used in the updating, expansion, and implementation of Seal of Biliteracy Programs. Seal of Biliteracy Programs (Seals) is used to assess literacy in two languages, one of which must be English. 

According to the official website for the Seal of Biliteracy, forty-two (42) states and the District of Columbia currently have an approved Seal of Biliteracy at the state level. New Hampshire implemented the Seal in September and administered its first test in Spring of 2021. Manchester, New Hampshire independently began a Seal Program in 2016 and has already awarded 150 seals to graduating high school seniors. 

An additional six (6) states have bills to establish Seals under consideration. Only Wyoming and South Dakota do not have official bills in circulation, but the Seal’s establishment is a work in progress in both states. The BEST Act’s goal is to create a federal program to fund these state Seals. Jeanne Shaheen says the BEST Act, “if signed into law, would create a federal program to support states’ Seal of Biliteracy program.” These programs would help boost language learning across the nation, which has significant impacts on many aspects of society as a whole. 

Senator Shaheen, a former public school teacher, says language learning will “enrich our students’ education and cultural competency and strengthen our security and competitiveness in the globalized economy.” The Senator strongly believes this bill will expand education opportunities for children and allow them to prosper in the global economy. She also noted that this bill “signals to students across the country that language skills are important and marketable skills, and it encourages students to take {language courses}.”



The Bill & Its Journey

During its introduction in March, the BEST Act was read twice on the Senate Floor. Then it was referred to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Neither Shaheen nor Schatz are on this committee and thus have no role in its momentum. As of writing, the Bill has not been acted on since its introduction. Maggeie Hassan of New Hampshire spoke of her support for the Bill: “I will continue to work to ensure that our students are equipped with the necessary skills to thrive in the 21st century. In the global economy, speaking multiple languages can be one of those critical skills.” Hassan noted that she will look for opportunities to work “across the aisle” in order to pass this bill.
Although the bill is no longer in her hands directly, Senator Shaheen says she will continue to support it as well: “As a cosponsor of the BEST Act, I will continue to voice my support for this legislation.” If the bill passes the Senate, it will move on to the House of Representatives, where it will be debated and voted on. Any amendments can be proposed and added to the bill. Once the same bill has been approved by both chambers of Congress, it will be sent to the President for signing. If the President approves of the bill, he will sign it into law. President Joe Biden made no official statements on his stance regarding the BEST Act. 


Bringing it Home: How the BEST Act Will Impact New Hampshire

Coming from New Hampshire, Senator Shaheen says she has witnessed plenty of bilingualism around her. She expressed the unity of the Franco-American community in New Hampshire: “New Hampshire has a strong Franco-American identity, which I experienced early on… When I ran for Governor, we even ran ads in French to reach French-speaking communities.” When she was in high school, Senator Shaheen said she studied French as well. This exposure to bilingualism and biliteracy has influenced her decision to support this bill. 

New Hampshire has already implemented a Seal of Biliteracy, as of Spring 2021, after being approved by the Commissioner of Education in September 2020. Senator Shaheen says she hopes “to use the success of this award in New Hampshire to advocate for the BEST Act and work with Congress and the Biden administration to expand education opportunities for language proficiency in New Hampshire and across the country.” Senator Shaheen also noted other states have had successful implementations of the Seal as well, including Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, and Hawaii. 


How to Support the Bill

If this bill is important to you, please reach out to your local senators and/or representatives. 

“Teachers and {language} advocates can support the BEST Act by publicly voicing their support for this bill, as well as by sharing new data and information regarding the benefit of {biliteracy} for students and schools.” – Jeanne Shaheen


As always, celebrate diversity.

World of French: French Guiana

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern














French Guiana is not its own nation, but an overseas territory in France. Although this little South American territory has a small population and limited natural resources, it has a space center used internationally, and is the birthplace of a key historical figure. It is also home to incredible cuisine that reflects the many influences of the region.

As in many South American countries, food staples include rice, yucca, and sweet potatoes. French influences are evident in the food, particularly in pastry. Their ‘national’ dish is bouillon d’awara (bouillon aoura), a tasty stew of smoked fish, crab, prawns, chicken, vegetables, and aoura fruit, which comes from savanna trees. Other yummy dishes include: blaff, a spicy fish chowder that can be eaten for breakfast; Doku, a creamy mashed corn dessert with cinnamon and brown sugar; and Kalou, spicy smoked fish with vegetables including swiss chard, collard greens, and onions. 



The many cultures that gave rise to these dishes include indigenous peoples, as well as Europeans and Africans. A mixed Crèole (or Guianese Mulatto) culture is common in the cities, where most of the population is concentrated. French is the official language in the territory, but Guianese Crèole French and indigenous languages are spoken too. Roman Catholicism is the dominant faith, and during Carnaval (called Mardi Gras in Louisiana) many people create bright costumes or host parties and celebrate this vibrant holiday. Other religions and beliefs are observed here as well. 


Out of this mixture of cultural influences came Léon-Gontran Damas in 1912. He became a leading figure in the Negritude movement, a worldwide literary movement in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s that protested colonialism and celebrated African cultures. Damas was also a prominent writer and diplomat, and he served in the French military and government. He was the first black writer to call attention to the psychological impact of colonization on the colonized. In 1937, he published a book of poems called Pigments. It was quickly translated into many African languages and distributed to colonies in Africa and the Caribbean

Another marvel of French Guiana is the Guiana Space Center, near the city of Kourou. There, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the French Government use the site to launch satellites into orbit and beyond. The French started using this site as a launch area in 1964 and shared it with the ESA when it was created in 1975. This location is ideal for a launch site because of its proximity to the equator. This site also isn’t prone to natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes. The first mission launched from this site took place in 1968. 

The territory of French Guiana is home to many cultures, which produced many delicious foods. This place has also made many historical contributions to the entire world, such as launching famous space exploration missions and being the birthplace of Léon-Gontran Damas.

From Time to Fine Wine: Crazy World Records Held by France

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern














Time Zones

Although mainland France only spans one time zone, Central European Time (CET), the country holds the record for the most time zones in a single nation, with 12 or 13, depending on the time of year. There are a total of 40 time zones across the entire globe relative to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Some are offset by fractions of an hour, such as 30 minutes or 45 minutes, contributing to the number being higher than 24. Given that France has territories in 13 time zones, France has some jurisdiction in nearly ⅓ of the world’s time zones. 

Two countries followed France with as many time zones: Russia and the U.S. Both countries have 11 time zones, because of their large size. The U.S. incorporates other time zones due to overseas territories like Guam and the Virgin Islands. Unlike France, these countries both have many time zones on their mainland, Russia with 11 (all of Russia’s time zones are present on the mainland) and the U.S. with 4. 

How France holds this record is not a factor of its size, but rather its spread across the globe. France comprises not only mainland France in Europe but dozens of overseas territories ranging from French Guiana in South America to French Polynesia in the South Pacific. Wallis and Futuna, an overseas department of France, is UTC+12 (12 hours ahead of the International Date Line), while the easternmost point in French Polynesia is UTC-10 (10 hours behind the International Date Line); at the most extreme, 22 hours, nearly a full day could separate two French people. This widespread sphere of influence has allowed France to become a master of time. 



In 2012, French cyclist Robert Marchand set the record for the longest distance cycled in a one-hour nonstop timeframe in his age group. Marchand cycled nonstop for an entire hour at a Swiss competition for seniors over 100. Over the hour, Marchand managed to cycle 22 kilometers, over 14 miles! That is about ½ the distance of a marathon runner. At the time of completion, Marchand was 105 years old. Soon after, he stopped competing for world records due to health concerns. 



The French are not well known for their military prowess, and often accused of “waving the white flag.” However, the French were the first to use balloons in military warfare, dating back to 1794 in the Battle of Fleurus. This Battle was among the most important in the French Revolutionary Wars and part of the larger Flander’s Campaign. Since 1794, they used balloons in warfare from the Civil War up to WWII. Today, the U.S. uses balloons to detect nuclear bases in foreign countries. Not only was France home to the first balloon warfare, but they also had the most nationalities serving in a single military unit. The French Foreign Legion had 136 countries making up its roughly 7 thousand members.  This record was set in 2007 and has yet to be broken by any other military force. 



The Mediterranean region is a hotspot for wine production. Over 50% of the world’s wine comes from countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including the top three producing countries: Italy, France, and Spain. According to the World Wide Wine Tours, France produces the greatest amount of wine by volume, accounting for a third of the world’s total wine output. Some sources put France in second with Italy at the top of the list, but no matter the order, France still produces an intoxicating amount of wine.

France is also a heavy-hitter in wine consumption, totaling 43 litres per person per year on average. Assuming the average bottle size of 0.75 litres, more than 57 litres per person each year. That means each person in France, on average, drinks more than an entire bottle of wine every week! France does not drink the most, though; the Vatican City actually consumes more wine per capita at an astounding 53 liters per person, more than an entire liter per week. 

France is also famous for its restrictions on wine production, put in place under Napoleon II, to ensure quality control. These restrictions, known as AOC, dictate where certain types of grapes can be grown and harvested as well as which wines must come from which region. The most known example of this is champagne, which has to come from the French province of Champagne to be legally declared as champagne. The AOC applies to other types of wines and grapes.

French Inventions

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School Intern















Humans have been using tools for centuries to make our lives easier. Many of the inventions we use every day, and even others we don’t often use, originated in France or were worked on by French inventors. 


The Bicycle

A German Baron named Karl von Drais invented the first steerable, two-wheeled contraption in 1817. He called this human-powered device a velocipede. Several inventors added to his original design, developing the first pedals for the front wheel. These French inventors were Pierre Lallement, Pierre Michaux, and Ernest Michaux. By this point, they called this wheeled contraption a bicycle, or a “bone shaker” because of its bumpy ride. Later, Eugène Meyer, also French, and James Starley, an Englishman, introduced an oversized front wheel for stability. This design was successful in the 1870s and ‘80s and introduced the bicycle to mainstream culture and racing. But the four-foot-high seat was too perilous for many to ride. So in 1885, John Kemp Starley (nephew of James Starley) made the ‘safety bike’ that more closely resembles the bike we know and love today. This model featured equal-sized wheels and a chain drive. Brakes and tires soon followed, bringing the bike’s evolution to the modern era. 


The Hot Air Balloon

The first manned flight of a hot air balloon took place in 1783 in France. This early design was created by French brothers Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier. Hot air provides the lift that carries these balloons through the air, and this design was powered by various materials that were burned while the balloon was in flight. This was hazardous and made it hard to control the temperature of the air, and thus the altitude of the balloon. In 1960, American Ed Yost invented a propane-powered heating system to solve this problem. The first flight with this new design took place in 1960 in Nebraska. Then in 1963, Yost used his innovative balloon to cross the English Channel, proving that balloons could be a legitimate form of transportation. In 1987, Englishman Richard Branson and Swedish engineer Per Lindstrand were the first to cross the Atlantic in a balloon. They flew a stunning 3,000 miles in 30 hours, reaching speeds of 130 miles per hour. 


The Parachute

Frenchman Sebastien Lenormand created the first functioning parachute in 1783. His design was based on the work of European inventors before him, including a sketch by Leonardo da Vinci and Croatian Faust Vranic, who created an actual device from Da Vinci’s drawing. Vranic successfully jumped from a tower in Venice using his creation. All of these early parachutes had rigid frames. But in 1797, Frenchman André-Jacques Garnerin was the first to complete a jump with a more modern silk parachute that folded. Garnerin went on to refine his design and even shared his passion with his wife Genevieve Garnerin, who became the first woman to complete a jump with a parachute.


The Trebuchet

The catapult was a weapon of Roman legions and Greek armies, but the more complex trebuchet was invented in 12th century France for siege operations. The trebuchet is far superior to its predecessor — it could throw objects over 300 pounds, and had an accurate range of 350 yards. Using a sling to launch the missile instead of a solid bucket like in a catapult doubled the power of the launch. It was also incredibly accurate compared to the catapult because it had a guide chute that straightened the trajectory of the missile. Missiles were commonly rocks or infected corpses meant to spread disease among the besieged enemy. Some stories even tell of flaming oil and beehives that were launched by trebuchets. 



Braille is a tactile reading system used by the blind and visually impaired around the world every day. This ingenious system was invented by Louis Braille, who went completely blind after an accident at age three. Even though he couldn’t read like the other children, he went to school, learning by listening. He studied hard, and earned a scholarship to the National Institute for Blind Youth in Paris. While he was there, he learned about a 12-dot tactile communication system used by the military to send messages at night. This system had a good idea, but it was hard to learn, and was based on sounds instead of letters. From age 12 to 15, Louis studied and refined this system, turning it into something of his own. From this, he invented a simpler 6-dot system, then created a reading and writing system with 64 symbols.


In 1824, he presented this system to his peers at the National Institute for Blind Youth. It was very popular and made learning much easier for the students. The school supported Louis’s system until they hired a new director in 1840. He banned the Braille system, fearing it would eliminate the need for seeing teachers. But Louis continued his work. He used an awl to make raised dots on paper, the same as the leatherworking tool that blinded him as a child. At age 20, Louis published a book about his system and how it could be used. He died of illness relatively young, and his brilliant system went unused for many years. Today, it has been adapted to many languages worldwide and plays an important role in the lives of many people who are visually impaired. 


Each of these five inventions were created because there was a need for a new device. Things like the trebuchet are seldom used in the present day, but gave rise to more advanced technology that is still in use today. Other inventions like Braille and the bicycle are used daily around the world. Parachutes have become a valuable tool, and hot air balloons are still the most beautiful way to see the world from above.

French Voices: Asian Dialects


Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern


Asia is not typically perceived as a hearth of French language and culture, but “Jum reap soo a” (Hello) and “Bonjour” are often heard alongside each other in Cambodian streets. The French language is spoken throughout Southeast Asia, particularly in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. The French arrived in Asia during the Age of Exploration, while French explorers were making claims in the territory of French Indochina. Since then, French language and culture have had a massive impact on the region. The opposite is true, as well. Asian dialects of French have risen from this region. The Asian dialects are strikingly different from each other, despite their geographic proximity.



Vietnam has the most prominent French dialect because it cooperated with the French government to preserve the French language. Such preservation efforts have allowed the French language and culture to prosper in Vietnam, even in the present day, despite larger efforts to remove French from Southeast Asia. A massive educational movement, funded by the government, has recently taken effect in Vietnam. Often, the International form of French is taught in schools and universities throughout the country. In these higher institutions of learning, French has found its home in Vietnam. They cover Vietnamese media in traditional Vietnamese and French to reach the entire population. Le Courrier du Vietnam is one of the largest newspaper organizations in Vietnam, and it is written in International French. This mingling of French and Vietnamese has created a distinct dialect of French in the country. 


The Vietnamese dialect is an example of a mingling of many languages in an area. In particular, traditional Chinese, International French, and English have influenced the Vietnamese dialect of French. These influences occurred because of the sequence of occupancy in the Vietnamese territory. Before the Vietnamese independence movement, French was the language of the Vietnamese elite. It served as a working language in the nation. Following independence, there was a rapid decrease in the French language because of resentful sentiment towards the French colonial rule.  However, there was a fairly large resurgence in the French language soon after, resulting from the Tây Bồi pidgin dialect


The Tây Bồi pidgin dialect formed in Vietnam for the Vietnamese working class to speak with the French elite, particularly when they worked as housemaids or servants. The language mixes with the French grammar rules to create a different form of French more accustomed to the traditional rules of the Vietnamese people. At this point, the pidgin dialect drew heavily from Chinese grammar rules. Often, it was a change in word order or the type of speech used. Another massive influence on pidgin was the use of pidgin by uneducated workers. This may have led to the use of non-traditional parts of speech in sentences.



Laos is home to the second-largest group of French speakers in Asia, attributed to its seclusion in the early 20th century. Following decolonization, Laos secluded itself from much of the world, taking a fairly cautious approach to entering the global stage. But French did not experience a massive rebuttal in Laos as it did in the other Southeast Asian countries. In fact, after coming out of its secluded period, Laos built strong relationships with countries like France and Canada, cementing it in the French cultural family. The French obviously influenced the capital of Laos, Vientiane. Besides the bustling streets with cafés on every corner, the city’s architecture reflects older French architecture and development. The medicinal and legal services in Laos are often conducted in French, while English makes up the financial and trade sectors. 



Laos is home to the most unchanged form of French, remaining fairly modern and unchanged from International French. Some words from the traditional language, Lao, have been traded between the languages, but those are minimal. All this exchange is limited to the topics of traditional culture, foods, flora, and fauna. This creates an interesting subset of the dialect to specifically refer to traditions, allowing the people of Laos to preserve their culture in their language. Often, Laos French simplifies some words to generalize things. One example is the word rue, which strictly refers to a road in French. In Laos, however, any street or avenue is referred to as une rue. 


Cambodia has the smallest proportion of French speakers in all of Southeast Asia. This is due to a few factors, including their cultural reforms following independence movements against the French. Since the late 20th century, Cambodian has been the official language of Cambodia. But French predates that by at least a century, arriving in the 1800s. Yet, it is in Cambodia where French has been altered the most by neighboring languages. While no widely known pidgins arose, as they did in Vietnam, Cambodia altered their dialect of French by combining words, phrases, and sentence structures from several neighboring areas. Most prominently, Cambodian French mixes International French, Cantonese Chinese, and Teochew Chinese. This use of Chinese languages occurred mostly in the Chinese interaction with Cambodia during the heights of its communist rule. 



Despite the efforts of Cambodia to rid themselves of the French language and culture, invasions from Vietnam reintroduced them to it in 1993. Despite this, the Cambodians remain critics of France and the French language. Education is the largest sector in which they practiced French in Cambodia. Many consider universities, particularly in Phnom Penh, to be the place where French’s legacy lives in Cambodia. Phnom Penh is indeed the largest French-speaking city in Cambodia, and as one of the largest cities in Cambodia at large, it holds many universities. French is also a global language; its uses provide important avenues for communication worldwide. Tourism is also a major industry that uses French, as French natives and other French-speaking citizens around the world flock to Cambodia for their luxurious beaches.


Another avenue for French is media, much like in Vietnam. Although there is only one newspaper in French throughout the entire country, it is widely known and read. The Cambodge Soir is an evening newspaper that recaps Cambodian events in French. A second newspaper, Cambodge Nouveau, went out of business in 2010 due to a variety of reasons, including decreased readership. Much like in Vietnam, most media is often presented with French options, or with French subtitles to access a wider audience. Cambodia, and Southeast Asia at large, has had a difficult and tumultuous relationship with the French language, but they have made efforts in every country to keep their own history alive. Because of this, each has made efforts to preserve the French language, while holding their own unique dialect. This diversity is a true celebration of the wide array of countries that speak French. À bientôt!

L’Académie Française and a Changing Language

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School Intern













Language is powerful. Our accents give us identity, and our words allow us to connect with each other. When our speech or writing is unclear, the rest of the world can’t understand us. Similarly, when we don’t have words to describe something, we have no way to tell others about it.

L’Académie Française was created for these reasons. Their job is to protect the French language by publishing the official grammar rules and French dictionary. Sometimes this organization is hard for English speakers to understand, as English has nothing equivalent to L’Académie. We just add extra words when new things are created, and even borrow words from other languages when it fits. Many organizations sell English dictionaries, and some of those different organizations even debate specific grammar rules, such as the Oxford comma


Cardinal de Richelieu

But for French, especially the French spoken in France, L’Académie rules the language. It began as an informal gathering of intellectuals. But in 1635, Cardinal de Richelieu made it public and gave it its purpose: to create the French dictionary and maintain language standards. 

The members of L’Académie are known as immortels (immortals). This nickname comes from the motto given to L’Académie by Cardinal de Richelieu: à l’immortalité (to immortality). There are 40 members allowed, and they are elected for life, although they may resign or be kicked out for misconduct. 

Many of the 729 total members in the history of L’Académie have been well known writers, and seven of them have been Nobel Prize recipients. Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Gustave Flaubert, and Jules Verne are among the more famous writers who have made it into L’Academie. 

Historically, L’Académie has been a highly respected institution, but recently people thought of L’Académie as outdated, a relic of a different time. This is because of L’Académie resisting a proposed change that would make French less gendered. 

In French, every noun has a masculine and a feminine form. For example, the noun writer has two, and only two, singular forms: écrivain (male writer) and écrivaine (female writer). There is also no neutral pronoun, meaning individuals who identify as gender neutral or nonbinary have no way to identify themselves. In English, a person may tell us their pronouns are ‘they/them’ and we can speak of that individual using those words. But in French, there are only two pronouns, and both are gendered

The current grammar rule dictates when addressing a group of people, the speaker must use the male form of the noun if there are any men in the group they are addressing. So if I am speaking to a group of five male writers and five female writers, I must refer to them collectively as écrivains. If more writers join us and there are now 500 female writers and only five male writers, I still have to address them as écrivains. Only if the five male writers leave and I am speaking to a group of only females am I allowed to call them écrivaines

 The proposal for change is admittedly messy, and would only work for written French. It takes the root of the noun and adds both endings, and the plural, separated by a period. Continuing the example above, the noun writer becomes écrivain.e.s.

L’Académie and others against this change argue this new form is far too messy, and the male root of the noun already functions as a gender-neutral form of the word. In 2017, when L’Académie voted on implementing these changes, they voted unanimously against them, and followed the vote with a statement that said such changes would put French “in mortal danger.” 

Marguerite Yourcenar, 1st woman to become a member of L’Académie

Advocates in favor of this change claim the masculine form is not neutral at all, and cite L’Académie created the grammar rule ‘masculine over feminine’ in 1647, with the justification that men are simply more ‘noble’ gender. And L’Académie itself is hardly the model for equality. Of the 729 members in their entire history, only 8 have been women, and only elected the first in 1980. 

Others claim these changes are necessary for the evolution of their language and also for women’s status in society. They admit a language change will not fix every problem encountered by Francophone girls and women, but they know a change like this is a step in a positive direction. 

The opinion of L’Académie is only an opinion, and they have little control over how people speak or write, or which works get published and which don’t. In fact, several books have been written explaining the necessity for a big change and how individuals can speak more inclusively. Some of these publications also talk about how people can speak about themselves and others if they don’t identify as strictly male or female (here’s another resource, this one in French).   

Both sides agree that their language is valuable and worth protecting. The only debate is which would harm the language more: resisting change and continuing to teach unequal rules, or writing in a way that isn’t neat and afflicting ‘impurities’ on the language?

French Art: From Monet to Van Gogh

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern










Art is a vital part of any culture, often reflecting important symbols, philosophies, and events. French culture is no different, having produced many famous pieces of art and been home to many famous artists. The French cultural diaspora has been home to many modern art movements, including Dadaism (see the blog on Switzerland for a short introduction) and the Impressionist movement. France has had a long history of artistry. History often serves as a source of art inspiration, particularly during wars. Propaganda art during the World Wars and reflectionary art following the French Revolution are two examples of art that demonstrate history serving as the inspiration for art. The propaganda piece, depicted below, depicts a French man strangling an eagle, the sign of the Germans in WWII. This art served a distinct purpose in France, intending to boost troop morale. 

Not all French art was military-based throughout history, though. Quite the contrary, in fact. One of the most remembered French paintings is Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette. This painting, shown to the right, is one of the most influential in the Impressionist movement. The Impressionist movement was a modern art movement created and perfected by Parisian artists, some of whom often painted the countryside. The movement focused on the use of light to define a moment. Impressionist painting also introduced an array of colors into paintings, seeking to illustrate life as they saw it around the world while using brushstrokes purposefully blurred the image. Impressionist paintings diffused widely into the world, though they remained mostly contained to Western Europe and the US.

Claude Oscar Monet is widely considered the father of the Impressionist movement. Monet was a man of poor background, having been raised in a scene of poverty from a young age. In his younger years, he was known locally (in Paris and Normandy in particular) for his charcoal caricatures, exaggerated pictures of often human subjects. He developed his artistic capabilities under the mentorship of Eugène Boudin, who taught Monet how to use oil paints and the technique of “en plein air (in plain air). The “en plein air” technique relates to painting open-air environments using realistic qualities. Monet’s tragic life story began shortly after his mother died in 1857, which catapulted his fairly nomadic life into gear. At this point Monet settled into his life in Paris. 

In 1861, Monet joined the First Regiment of African Light Cavalry in Algeria, while living in Paris. He was nearly immediately contracted out of the Regiment and agreed to take a position in an Art School. Here Monet met many of his fellow Impressionist artists. He became a student of Charles Gleyre and developed new styles to approach art, including the introduction of rapid brushstrokes and bright, realistic colors. One of Monet’s first paintings of this style was La Femme à la Robe Verte (The Woman in the Green Dress), which was among the first, of many, to feature his wife. Monet painted this piece just before he attempted to commit suicide for financial reasons following the birth of his first son in 1868. 

Monet later took refuge in England during the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). It was during his stay in England that introduced him to English artists and inspired his more expressive use of color in his works. Following this, Monet went on a brief tour of Europe, creating over 25 paintings over a few years. He returned to France in 1871 to live on the banks of the Seine River. Monet painted his first Impressionist painting around 1872. This painting was called Impression, Soleil Levant (Impression, Sunrise), and featured short, choppy brushstrokes with a plethora of colors. Following this, there were a series of Impressionist paintings that sought to depict the French countryside. These were the paintings that brought Monet to fame. He then went on an adventure to paint a series of paintings, including a series of Weeping Willows in WWI to pay homage to the fallen soldiers.

Monet’s Impressionist Style is widely considered the inspiration for the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, one of the most famous Impressionist painters of the period. Like Monet, Renoir focused on light, colorful, realistic scenes; Renoir focused on depictions of social gatherings and the French countryside. However, it was not those paintings that made him famous. Instead, it was his depictions of children, flowers, and women. These paintings focused on the essential Impressionist features, including choppy brush strokes for emphasis and an array of colors. Renoir was perhaps one of the most productive artists, painting thousands of pieces throughout his lifetime. But Renoir’s lasting importance was his influence on Vincent Van Gogh. 

Vincent Van Gogh puts the Impressionist style into the perspective of modern art styles in Western Europe. French artists and culture influenced Van Gogh’s painting, despite Van Gogh not being French. Van Gogh used many aspects of Realism of the Impressionist movement. Although Realism was a separate movement, the style seemed to blur with Impressionism at many points. Van Gogh did not start with Impressionist paintings, though. In fact, at a young age, Van Gogh began in black-and-white pencil drawings as he believed mastery lied in focusing on the basics. Van Gogh began his journey into color in 1881, during a study with Anton Mauve, serving as Van Gogh’s introduction to color. For much of these early color paintings, their earthy tones characterized Van Gogh’s paintings.

The Potato Eaters

This experience was the backdrop of Van Gogh’s movement into Impressionist styles after his visit to Paris. Van Gogh did not simply copy the Impressionist paintings. Instead, Van Gogh drew on another style as well, called the pointillist technique. This was the beginning of Van Gogh’s personal style, which mixed color and clean brushstrokes with points of light and realism techniques. This style was both unique to Van Gogh and inspired future art movements in the modern era of art, such as Post-Impressionist art. In his final days, Van Gogh took pride in this style of painting and was perhaps the most productive during this time. It was in this period Van Gogh took on a blue-green color spectrum and a curvature system to suggest movement in the painting. This was a transition from Impressionism into Post-Impressionism. Wheatfield of Crows is believed to be the last work of Vincent Van Gogh, ending his long reign over beautiful artwork.

Overall, France has served as one hub for artistic innovation and creation, serving as the home for many of the world’s most influential artists and creating perhaps the largest movements in modern art, including Impressionism. From the war-based propaganda to the brilliant and beautiful paintings of artists such as Monet and Van Gogh, France has helped shape global art trends, and will likely continue to do so. 


World of French: Switzerland


Written by Jasmine Grace, High School Intern 



French is one of the four languages spoken in Switzerland. This landlocked European nation is known for its diversity, neutrality, chocolate, cheese, and picturesque scenery.  But this small nation is home to so much more.

Dada Art

Many people think of Switzerland as Johanna Spyri portrays it in the country’s best-known literary piece, Heidi. But this nation isn’t just alpine lakes and villages; there are also many cities and urban areas. A unique art style originated in one of those beautiful cities, Zürich. When WWI refugees were being housed here, Switzerland’s artistic movement, called Dadaism, began in protest of the war. This art style is best described as nonsensical. It is organized artistic chaos, defined by negation, absurdity, and its spontaneous nature. Dada artists use a variety of mediums such as music, sculpture, literature, painting, theatre, and photography.

The city of Geneva is home to CERN, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research). It is the largest physical laboratory in the world, and is located 100 meters underground. The laboratory’s mission is to study nature at a subatomic level and create a diverse scientific community. Scientists from all over the world come here to search for answers about how our world works at a fundamental level and how the universe was created. These scientists use innovative technology and inventions to conduct their research. 

Another world-famous Swiss innovation is their chocolate. They were the first to add milk to their chocolate and developed a recipe that makes it flavorful. You’ve probably heard of the glory that is Swiss chocolate, and I’ll tell you everything you’ve heard is true. But of course, chocolate isn’t the only great food in Switzerland. The country is also known for its cheese. And not just the Swiss cheese. Switzerland has over 450 varieties of cheese. Fondue (melted cheese dip served with bread cubes) is very popular. As for the more nutritious foods, Switzerland is also the birthplace of birchmüesli, which is like oatmeal but many times more delicious. A Swiss doctor who thought of a diet of cereals, fruits, and veggies invented oatmeal which proved healthier than a meat-based diet. He created birchmüesli for the patients of his sanatorium in Zürich. 

Switzerland is also famous for its cultural diversity. Since the beginning of the nation, different languages, religions, and cultures coexisted peacefully. Many Swiss take pride in their nation’s diversity. And these different cultures living together means Switzerland is neutral by necessity. They avoid taking sides when their neighbors run into conflict. Switzerland has had no part in any war since 1505!

Switzerland even avoided both world wars, despite the internal strife. There were tensions between German, French, and Italian-speaking Swiss citizens. And the working class struggled because they had to take time off from their jobs to protect Switzerland’s borders, but weren’t compensated for their time off. After a nearly violent public demand for reform, several changes were implemented. This included a change to the voting system and more benefits for the unemployed.


Because of this guarded neutrality, Switzerland maintained a stable economy, allowing them to become a major economic power on the world stage. This nation is a beautiful and peaceful place with a unique history, unique art form and many delectable dishes.

French Voices: The Acadian Dialect

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern










Thank you to Henri Vaillancourt, native French speaker and student of the language’s origins, for his insights which formed the basis of this blog.

While the Québécois dialect is perhaps the most well-known of the dialects of French, there are many more to be discovered, even in Canada alone. Through the period of colonization, the French took major stakes in Northern America. This established a sphere of influence over French culture and language around modern day southern Canada. However, the French introduced to the New World differed from the French spoken in France today. According to Henri Vaillancourt, who has a distinct passion for dialects, listening to Acadian and Québécois dialects is like a window into the past. This is because both dialects built on the older French dialects when France and Canada became isolated from each other. 

In my interview with Henri, we discussed the Acadian dialect in great detail. Henri began with the history of Acadia: while the French were settling into Canada and other parts of North America, they brought their language with them and eventually came to inhabit a region of Canada known as Acadie, or Acadia. Originally, the region only comprised Nova Scotia but grew to become bigger as the French influence spread. The remarkable fact of Acadia is the peacefulness the people had with the indigenous peoples of the area. The French settlers of this region were often found trading and socializing with these people, a stark contrast to much of North America. Later, the British rule of Canada forced the exile of all Acadians. In fact, they came to inhabit modern-day New Orleans in Louisiana, forming a bridge between the two dialects (the Cajun dialect will be discussed in a future edition of this series).

The Acadian dialect, which covers the region of Acadia in Eastern Canada, is another well-known French dialect in Canada. Acadia, the homeland of this dialect, is comprised of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and even small pockets of the Gaspé peninsula. Henri noted these regions have distinct dialects, which all fall into the overarching category of Acadian dialects. Acadia has a similar history to Québec; it was first controlled by New France and later by the British monarchy. Thus, the region was cut off from the developments of French in Europe and maintained a fairly historical dialect of French, according to Henri. In this way, the Acadian dialect mirrored the Québécois dialect in several phrases, and words in Acadian are exchanged with English-speaking peoples living close. In fact, Brayon, a specific dialect of Acadian, mixes the Acadian and Québécois dialects. 

Though it is in proximity to Québec, the Acadia dialect has a few distinctions. One of the more interesting distinctions is the first-person plural form of speaking. While there are two forms of French, like nous mangeons or on mange (both meaning “we are eating”), Acadian French introduces a third form. In Acadia, they use the first-person singular pronoun je and conjugate the verb for nous, resulting in something like je mangeons. Acadia was also special because it was mostly populated by Central French speakers, meaning some of their distinctions carried into Acadia. The most prominent example was the use of the “ou” vowel sound instead of “o” in words. For example, homme (man) in International French may become houmme in Acadian French. Pronunciation, particularly with “r” sounds, is also different in Acadian French. For example, “er” can often be pronounced as “ar” instead, changing the sound of many words, particularly verbs. “R” itself is also a bit different, being pronounced in the front of the mouth as opposed to the back, as in International French. The most distinctive feature is the use of point as a marker of negation. For example, one may say “je ne veux point ça” (I don’t want that) as opposed to the more common “je ne veux pas ça.”

Comparing the Dialects


Two sub-dialects in particular are unique to the Acadian group of dialects in this region of the world. The Chiac dialect is a mix of French in English where the two languages are mashed together to create phases. Another influence of the Chiac dialect is the Mi’kmaq language, which is an indigenous language from which words like matue (porcupine) were derived. Chiac is spoken mostly in south Canada, specifically in New Brunswick. There is debate about whether the spoken word of Chiac should be considered a dialect itself because the Chiac people combine French and English words. The most accepted idea is Chiac is just an accent of French common to New Brunswick. As such, Chiac is generally rated on a scale from heavy-Acadian to heavy-English. One common example of a Chiac line is from Lisa Leblanc, an Acadian songwriter: “J’ai du global warming dans la brain (I’ve got global warming on the brain).The development of the Chiac mixture of French and English is due to the presence of Candian English in New Brunswick, which differs from Quèbec. French is dominant and thus impacted little, in comparison to Chiac, by the English language. 

Brayon is another dialect of French that is found in New Brunswick, though it extends a bit farther than Chiac, and is often used about a group of dialects including Chiac. Brayon extends to border Canada and even extends into Northern Maine as well. The distinction Brayon has is that it is, essentially, a dialect of the Acadian group that mixes both the Acadian and Quèbècois dialects into one. Like Chiac, Brayon has some influence on the Candian English that surrounds it. However, this influence has not penetrated nearly as far as it has in the Chiac dialect discussed above. There has been some pushback to make Brayon its own group of dialects. But for now, it rests underneath the Acadian supergroup. 

The Acadia region certainly has deep historic French roots. As a result, this led to the development of their own French dialect, one whichstems from old French (much like the Quèbècois Dialect) but still maintained a distinct identity. Acadian French is a vast category of dialects that actually contains many subdivisions of the dialect itself. Brayon and Chiac are some interesting examples Henri provided me to research. Much like the Quèbècois dialect, some speakers of Acadian dialects are ridiculed, especially those who chose to integrate English and French into their dialects. This is unfortunate, as each French dialect is just one of a dozen global voices of French, each with its own sound.