Seize the Day: Professor Visits an Empty Paris Louvre

John William Bailly stands alone in the empty Louvre museum in Paris, France. Photo Courtesy of John William Bailly’s Website

Irina Barneda/Staff Writer

Picture visiting the most recognizable landmarks on earth without the hordes of tourists, walking amid empty halls, and being in such proximity to priceless art that you see the texture of every individual brushstroke.

This was the case for FIU professor and artist, John William Bailly, the first person to enter Paris’ Louvre museum since it closed its doors due to the pandemic. 

“I was alone. Alone with the Mona Lisa, with all the art…It was crazy,” said Bailly.

One photograph Bailly took during his visit stood out in particular.

“At one point I’m looking at Liberty Leading the People from the Coldplay album, and there’s a cleaning lady coming through; she’s got her bags and her broom and everything… and she’s just walking in front of it. It was an incredible image captured at that moment,” he said.

Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix at the Louvre Museum on July 11, 2020. Photo Courtesy of John William Bailly’s Website.

Every year for the last decade, Bailey who lived in France until the age of 10,  has travelled to Italy, Spain and France during the summer to find inspiration for his large oil paintings and drawings. 

He has visited the museum hundreds, if not thousands of times and as faculty director for the summer study abroad program, he takes his students every year, but he has never had an intimate experience like his latest one.

“I could breathe, you know, and lose myself in the moment without distractions,” said Bailly. 

During his latest visit, Bailly spent a lot more time in the Louvre than he normally would. 

It was the first time he could take his time looking at the art, no need to rush or move in fear of blocking someone else’s view. 

“I love to get as close as I can to paintings to see the actual application of the paint; the texture. Normally that is impossible to do,” said Bailly. 

As an artist himself, who currently has his paintings in the LnS Gallery at Coconut Grove, Bailly felt both a combination of awe and inspiration at the sight of these famous paintings. 

“The artwork came to light. To see these famous paintings with no distractions for me as a painter… It was absolutely spectacular,” said Bailly.

Bailly’s favorite artwork at the Louvre is Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa because of its underlying message of unity and hope.

“It is my favorite because It’s a painting that the artist paid for himself,” Bailly said. It’s also about people of different races, ages, and status coming together in a unified objective of hope, and that is a message not just for the pandemic, but for our lives. It’s when we come together that we achieve greatness.”

Bailly in front of The Raft of the Medusa by Géricault at the Louvre Museum on July 11, 2020. Photo by Vincent Dugast. Photo Courtesy of John William Bailly’s Website.

Bailly hopes to inspire people by sharing his experiences through social media. He wants people to know that when the Coronavirus situation gets under control, there’ll be places that they can go.

“Many people ask me to travel for them because they can’t,” said Bailly. “I feel that if I can bring people some joy and escape through these difficult times, I’m happy to do that.

Bailly has advice for students that are unable to travel right now.

“Understand that the situation you’re in is part of a larger global movement, be patient,”  he said. “Realize how accessible and wonderful travel abroad is and be ready because travel will open up again, and the world will be waiting for you to run through its fields.”

If the pandemic has made the professor of 13 years realize anything, it’s that we must seize the day.

“This moment that you’re living now is unique in its place and time and its place in your life,” said Bailly. “You may be at the location again, but it will never be this moment again. So appreciate it and live it to the extent that you can.”

It also made him realize there’s one thing he won’t ever complain about again.

“I realized that I will never complain about anything being crowded ever again; I just want to travel with my students” said Bailly. “The Vatican is crowded today? So what if it’s crowded? We’re there.”