Americans in Paris, George Gershwin and Gene Kelly

When Workshops in France partners with Vanessa Rothe Fine Art to present the historical workshop Americans In Paris Paint Provence in September of this year, we will be following a tradition that goes well beyond painting.


Americans have been long-drawn to the beauty, charm and romance of the City of Lights. One incredible example is American composer George Gershwin, most famously known for the songs he composed with his lyricist brother, Ira Gershwin (as examples,
Someone to Watch Over Me”and “The Man I Love”) and his jazz-influenced classical piece Rhapsody in Blue.

Gershwin’s 1951 American in Paris

Gershwin also composed a magnificent piece entitled An American in Paris, which reflected his impressions of the wondrous old city. He explained, “My purpose here is to portray the impressions of an American visitor in Paris as he strolls about the city, listens to the various street noises, and absorbs the French atmosphere.”

For the premier of the piece, he brought four Parisian taxi horns back from Paris that were actually written into the music. The listeners indeed feel like they are strolling through Paris and experiencing its atmosphere.

The beauty of this composition didnt end with its performance and recording. In 1951, Gershwins piece served as the foundation for a now-legendary film of the same name, An American In Paris, starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The film is dazzling with its dancing and music, utilizing several Gershwin songs sung and danced by Kelly. The finale is a breathtaking 17-minute dance sequence with Kelly and Caron, set to the entire original Gershwin composition, and is one of the most famous dance sequences ever filmed.

If youve never seen this film, make a point to watch it! This is the kind of joy and expression that rarely makes it into movies these days. Here is a clip from it.

Keeping the Tradition Alive

Following this fantastic tradition, our historic workshop Americans in Paris Paint Provence will be taking place September 27 – Oct 6, 2020. As part of the workshop, we will also be focusing on the Parisian tradition of great minds coming together in bistros to discuss the cultural aspects of the day, and of the future. Think of Hemingway, think of Fitzgerald, think of the conversations that Degas and Manet would’ve had drinking their café au lait early in the morning before they headed off to paint, or our favorite impressionists schmoozing over a good Côtes du Rhône red in the evening. Oh yes, that’s what we’ll be doing. So come and join us!

To sign up and learn more, click here.

 Blogger: Julie Snyder

Julie Snyder is a professional artist and also the programs director of Workshops In France.  A native of Scotland, she is a seasoned traveler who splits her time between California and France.  You can learn more about her role with Workshops in France here.

Shirley Hambrick artist

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