Our Lady, Our Muse
Since its construction in the 12th century, the Notre-Dame Cathedral has endured repeated devastation and trauma. Hosting the coronations of both Henry VI of England in 1431 and of Napoleon in 1804, surviving vandalism by the Huguenots in the 16th century, and enduring the French Revolution as well as two World Wars, the recent fire damage of Notre-Dame is a tragedy not only for Paris, but for history, culture, the arts, and Christianity.
Serving as the backdrop for Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame,” an exemplification of Gothic architecture, and a sanctuary for those of any faith, Our Lady of Paris has served as a beacon of hope and as a muse to its countless visitors. As the world moves forward in solidarity with France and the restoration of Notre-Dame, here is a look at some of art history’s depictions of the famous cathedral.
Henri Matisse, Notre-Dame, Une Fin D'après-midi, 1902, Courtesy Albright-Knox
Henri Matisse, View of Notre-Dame, 1914, Courtesy Wikimedia
Matisse painted Notre-Dame from this same vantage point throughout his career. Viewing Notre-Dame through his apartment and studio, he maintained a consistent perspective of the cathedral but approached it in various different styles over the years. In his painting on the left created during his ‘Dark Period’, a time of personal difficulties, Matisse worked mostly with darker, somber shades. Years later, his study of Notre-Dame varies stylistically with energetic marks, bursts of light, and vibrant greenery.
Pablo Picasso, Vue de Notre-Dame de Paris - le de la Cite, 1945, Courtesy Wikimedia
Picasso captured Paris scenes throughout his life, focusing on distorting Parisian architecture in his signature Cubist style. This portrait of Notre Dame was painted after the Second World War. Rendered in a softer style with circular shapes rather than harsh geometric angles, Picasso reflects the lighter mood after the city’s liberation with a pastel palette.
Marc Chagall, Notre-Dame and Eiffel Tower, 1960, Courtesy Wikimedia
Marc Chagall, Vue sur Notre-Dame, 1980, Courtesy Christie's
“Paris!” wrote Marc Chagall, “No word sounded sweeter to me!” Capturing varied views of Paris in his signature style, Chagall incorporated elements of the fantastic amidst colorful swirls.
Damien Hirst, Cathedral Print, Notre Dame, 2006, Courtesy Artsy
Drawing inspiration from the stained glass windows adorning Notre-Dame, this Damien Hirst print commemorates the elaborate details within the cathedral. Comprised of butterflies, the kaleidoscopic pattern unites the hopeful symbolism of butterflies with the religious tradition of stained glass windows.