Find Me at an Art Museum

La Fetra’s Art Travel Adventure Around the World


BACK TO EUROPE Sue La Fetra reads her travel journal, which documents her travels to London and Paris. Photo by Megan Chai

Palo Alto high school teacher Sue La Fetra always longed to visit world class art museums outside of the Bay Area, and in 2013 she finally had an opportunity when she accompanied her sons to Ireland on a church trip. With Paris a short ride away, La Fetra who teaches Art Spectrum and AP Art History and who grew up locally in Los Altos, eagerly headed off to the Musée de I’Orangerie.

The museum is regarded as one of the most prestigious art museums in France and houses paintings from some of the artists including world’s greatest Monet, Picasso and Matisse. In one particular oval shaped room, it displays a collection of famous Water Lilies paintings by artist Claude Monet. Visiting the museum has changed her perspective on the art she has always seen in books.

“The reproductions of the water lilies I’ve seen are nice, but this was just really moving,” La Fetra says. “Instead of standing before a rectangular painting I was immersed from all sides by his water lilies.”

There is nothing like seeing art in person.”

— Sue La Fetra

New York art museums match France’s abundance of spectacular work, captivating La Fetra and deepening her passion for art.

La Fetra recounts visiting the Guggenheim Museum located in New York and seeing a Van Gogh piece in person.

“[Van Gogh] laid down paint thickly and with such confidence, and yet the lines of his brush strokes lead the eye swiftly over his paintings,” says La Fetra. “His color harmonies are perfect. He did everything with carefully studied intention, but he poured great emotion into his paintings.”  

While visiting art museums around the world, La Fetra stresses taking in the art in person.

“Europe doesn’t allow you to take as [many] photographs … compared to the U.S.” La Fetra says.“I think that’s good because I think people spend way to much time looking through viewfinders and not enough time looking directly at the art. My rule of thumb is to spend more time looking at the art than reading the plaque by it.”

Seeing paintings in person has been an entirely different experience for La Fetra.

“When you look at a book you have no idea of the scale, and sometimes when you walk into a museum it just blows you away,”  La Fetra says. “Sometimes it was much smaller than you thought it was going to be and sometimes it was much bigger than you thought it was going to be.”

While traveling, La Fetra picked up new techniques to incorporated into her own paintings. For instance, she looked at artist Manet’s use of outlining and imitated his style in one of her own paintings. She has also turned her travel photos into works of her own.

To students who are interested in studying art around the United States and abroad, La Fetra recommends visiting New York, Paris and Florence because they have been the western centers for artistic innovation while possessing a tremendous amount of high quality art.

“There is nothing like seeing art in person,” La Fetra says.   

DEEPER KRATER Sue La Fetra admires the intricate designs on the Geometric Krater at the Metropolitan Mueseum of Art in New York City. The Geometric Krater represents a period in Greek art (around 750 B.C.) when these kraters (big vessels) were used as grave markers. The images on it are geometric in design and provide a sharp contrast with the Archaic and Classical Greek periods that followed. “I had seen photos of the Krater in books before and was surprised at how big it was,” La Fetra says. Photo by Jill La Fetra
ARCHITECTURE ADMIRATION Sue La Fetra stands in front the Notre Dame a famous cathedral in Paris known for its size, antiquity and architecture. For a week, she stayed in Paris with her husband to tour Paris’s delicious pastries and art. “[I was] very impressed with the high relief sculpture at Notre Dame,” La Fetra says. Photo by Ross La Fetra