Guardians of the Louvre by Jiro Taniguchi

Guardians of the Louvre written and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi and translated by Kumar Sivasubramanian

A Japanese artist stops off in Paris on his way home from a conference in Spain. Why not add an extra week to the trip and see the museums of Paris? Unfortunately he gets stuck in his hotel for a few days with an illness. He recovers a bit and heads off to the Louvre. Once inside with the other crowds, he has a feverish relapse. He wakes up in an almost empty Louvre. He’s led around to various works by the Guardians of the Louvre, spirits inspired by some of the famous works on display. He finds out more about the artists and the art, even traveling through history to visit Van Gogh in the French countryside and the museum when the art was evacuated at the beginning of World War II.

The set up isn’t all that compelling–is it a fever dream, is it actually happening, is he in some halfway state? Those issues are mentioned but are really unimportant. The set up is an excuse to explore different artists, events, and works. Since the author and the main character are Japanese, readers also find out about the influence of some art pieces on 20th century Japanese art. The book has a lot of fascinating stories and trivia from the art world.

The book is also fun for anyone who has visited the Louvre, since the drawings authentically capture the interiors and many famous works like the Mona Lisa. Reading is like visiting again.

The book is published manga-style, reading comic panels right to left and beginning with what, in America, is the back of the book. I quickly adapted to the style, so I don’t think it should be any challenge for other readers, but it is something to be aware of.

A very enjoyable and creative slice of art history!

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