If you love art or at least have an interest in learning about art, Guardians of the Louvre, published by NBM Publishing, is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.
Created by acclaimed award-winning Japanese artist, Jirô Taniguchi, Guardians of the Louvre is a graphic novel that tells the tale a Japanese artist who, after attending an international comics festival in Barcelona, Spain, gets ill (probably from what’s traditionally known as ‘con crud’), and spends time in his Paris hotel room convalescing. Or does he? Once, he feels well enough, he ventures out of his room to visit the sites and wonders of the Louvre.
Without giving away the story, he tours the venue and experiences the famous pieces of art in unique and deeply personal ways. For example, when he sees the art of Vincent van Gogh, he is so intent on examining the paintings that he ‘meets’ with van Gogh and travels to his home town to experience the sites and sounds that inspired the painter.
The artwork in this graphic novel is inspiring. With lush water color mixed with detailed drawings, the graphic novel is like a dream itself. On many occasions I thought I was looking at Studio Ghibli film.
Scene from Tales From Earthsea from Studio Ghibli. Image owned by Studio Ghibli
At first I was confused by the graphic novel. The panels were out of order – or at least that’s what I thought — until I understood that this book was written by a Japanese author. Created in the style of Manga, the Japanese form of comic book publishing [which Scott McCloud so entertainingly educates in Understanding Comics], the panels read from right to left as opposed to the western way of comic books that read from left to right.
The book is written as if it’s an lecture on art. I just wish all my university lectures were like this book — I would have stayed in school forever.
I’ve never been to the Louvre in France. My only knowledge of the museum comes from television and movies. Most recently The Da Vinci Code movie featuring Tom Hanks has been my association with the art of the site.
But the graphic novel takes the reader inside the Louvre and brings you closer to the works of art than you could ever experience.
Another memorable moment in the book comes about when the Japanese artist is informed about the history of the museum. He learns about the painstaking efforts the French museum staff went through to secure the artwork during the upheaval of World War II. It’s heart wrenching to learn how these brave men and women went to great lengths to ensure the timeless art pieces were secure from the clutches of the Nazi regime. This story provides further background to the most recent book The Monuments Men by Robert Edsel that became a movie featuring George Clooney.
Guardians of the Louvre is a love letter to the Louvre and those who keep its artwork alive for visitors to experience. Furthermore, the graphic novel is a discourse on how to appreciate art and understand the reasons that inspired the artists in the first place. Definitely recommended. The book is available for purchase from the following sites: Amazon Canada, IPG, and iTunes