How to Learn French at an Art Museum

By Paula Nilsen


(The Millinery Shop, 1879-1886)

 St. Louis Art Museum is on a mission. Right now that mission is to educate the public into all things French. Whether Francophile or a casual observer, fun can be had for all. The museum is featuring a new exhibit, and the first of its kind, Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade. Hats abound. Paintings by Degas and Renoir and Moiresette will leave your mouths agape; paintings of Paris millinery shops will stop you in your tracks for their beauty alone.


(Fashionable Women on Champs-Élysées, c. 1902) 

Along with all the works of art, French lessons are offered to the public.  

I met Kent Curry, a member of SLAM for three years now, at a French lesson. He was thrilled to do something so magnificent as to watch Isabelle teach French in front of a Monet. It was a bit of a bucket list item for him, he admitted. One thing that stayed with him is that French people aren’t born French, they are bred French.  


(Monet Water Lilies, c. 1916. Photo Credit: Kent Curry) 

Isabelle started the lesson with French numbers, then she covered famous French sayings like, joie-de-vivre, and French etiquette as well. One such etiquette item of interest is that French people do not touch food with their fingers.  

Joan Jenkins, hostess in the restaurant, spoke highly of the exhibit and wore her hat in celebration. She stated that she had met several people from France at the museum and they were “extremely proper and had sexy accents.”  

Bob and Julia, a mother and son duo, who have been coming to the art museum for decades together loves all things French. Julie stated that she loved the Degas exhibit and found the French women’s hats charming, but the men’s hats quite dull and very black.  


(Bob and Julia) 

SLAM invites you to come and get cultured and learn French in the process. 

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