But I made a trip up to Amsterdam as well, and entirely by accident (long story) was able to visit the Prado in Madrid to see practically the entire career of Francisco Goya.
At the very end of the trip I got stranded in Paris for a few days. I had pretty much had my fill of museums by that time, finding that while the continent has a very large number of truly revelatory, beautiful, strange and wonderful pictures of all kinds, it also has an exponentially larger amount of crap. The new economic titans of Europe demanded artifacts of conspicuous-consumption (as new economic titans always do) and apparently painters obliged with piles of ultimately repetitive and uninspired pictures of all sorts. If the U.S. is any different it's only because we came of age at a different time, and employed different means to display our wealth.
Still, the Louvre has its moments. I love the rooms with the giant Delacroix's and Gericault's and David's – the giant Hollywood mega-blockbusters of their day...
But the picture that summed up the arc of Western painting for my tired eyes in 1999, was this one:
Of course there are a small number of really wonderful, humbler pictures at the Louvre. Painters, of course, continued to find ways of describing the strangeness, bitterness and beauty of the world whatever the economics happened to be. Here's a portrait of a flute player, blind in one eye: