Friday, November 14, 2014

De Clergue à Picasso at the Musée Réattu - Arles



While many iconic modern painters have been drawn to the South of France solely for the quality of its light - Van Gogh, Matisse and Cezanne amongst them - Pablo Picasso also found in Arles the possibility to enjoy a favorite pastime from his Spanish youth. He came for the corridas or bull-fights presented in the Roman Arena during the Ferias and often brought famous friends such as Jean Cocteau along with him. There are photographs of him posing casually with his wife Jacqueline at the Malarte café and parting the crowds in the stands as if he were a toreador himself. 

In 1953, an ambitious young photographer, Lucien Clergue, cornered the maestro as he was leaving the Arena to show him a portrait that he had done. Picasso approved so heartily of the piece that he signed it and so a friendship between the two began. Clergue would go on to reach national acclaim with the presentation of his sumptuous nudes shot on the beaches of the nearby Camargue. In 1965, he masterminded the first collection of photography in a French museum for the Musée Réattu and was instrumental in launching the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie four years later. 

With time, a true dialogue developed between the two men. Ideas and themes were exchanged - both shared a fascination for harlequins and gypsies for example - as were works or art. Currently, over sixty pieces from Clergue's personal collection of Picasso works are being presented for the first time to the public within the exhibition titled, appropriately enough, "De Clergue à Picasso." 

Picasso and the museum have shared a link for some time. In 1971, the painter very generously donated 57 numbered and dated drawings to express his fondness for Arles, something that was quite a coup at the time. Those works, in addition to the painting Portrait of Maria Picasso Lopez which was donated by Jacqueline Picasso in 1985, are on permanent display (as well as being featured in the exhibition) and add a vibrant character to this small museum perched on the banks of the Rhone River.

If, like me, you have a preference for later periods in Picasso's work, you are in for a treat. In the drawings, etchings and linocuts presented, there is a simplicity and yet distinct lushness of line. The  interplay between the centuries old architecture of the museum and the electric modernity of the works is also attractive. Plus, the factor of discovering an unknown treasure is breath-taking. I was completely blown away by the richness and diversity of this private collection and I apologize as I was so intent on looking that my snap-happening was not (plus this is the precise moment when my little Canon G12 bit the dust). Admittedly, I have little to show that is convincing but please trust me and by all means do go if you are in the region as the exhibition is running until January 4th. 

It is also most certainly worth the effort just to see the Musée Réattu itself. Initially constructed in the 15th century, it was named a Grand Priory for the Knights of Malta in 1652 (I love to just casually toss out such facts about Arles..."Oh yes, that happened here too..."). Gargoyles loom overhead and I can always hear the knights footsteps marching up the wide stone staircases. But we have the painter Jaques Réattu to thank for it was he who bought the entirety of the property (27 lots in all) when it was sold during the French Revolution. In 1868, it became a museum that initially featured only his works (some of which are more successfully orchestrated than others). Slowly, the collections have grown and due to the active participation of such local heros as Clergue and the designer Christian Lacroix (whose wildly successful show in 2008 was a watershed moment for the museum), its future is far brighter than its past. I always suggest for visitors to go, for I am really fond of what it has become. No one listens to me but they should and certainly right now in order to delight in the exceptional viewing of "De Clergue à Picasso." The bond between them is evident and it is a delight to peek inside the more private creative lives of these two artists and their love of this corner of Provence.

A sad UPDATE: Mr. Lucien Clergue passed away the day after I posted this at the age of 80 years old. I often saw him strolling the streets of Arles and it was evident that even if he no longer was carrying a camera in hand, he was always searching for an image with the eye of a true artist. His battle was to prove that photography be recognized as valid art medium rather than being considered a "lesser art" both in France and abroad. In 2007, he was the first person to be elected to the prestigious Académie des Beaux Arts for photography and for 2013 he was its chairman. He published over 75 books during his career and his work has been featured at numerous galleries and museums, including a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City that was curated by Edward Steichen in 1961. His friendship with Picasso lasted thirty years, until the painters death.

Pour mes amis francophones, il y a un video intéressant sur son façon de travailler: ici.













And if you don't believe me, just look at the comments in the guest book below...Ginette, who is 102 years old declared that it was fabulous...



De Clergue à Picasso
Musée Réattu
10 rue du Grand Prieuré
13200 Arles, France
Tel.: (+33) 04 90 49 37 58
Open 10am to 5pm, Closed Mondays
Until January 4th 2015
Tickets are 7€ per person

I just found this, it is a little wonky but gets the basics across:

I hope that your weekend is filled with inspiration...Olé!



22 comments:

Judi of Little House said...

Oh how I wish I were there! It sounds absolutely wonderful. Enjoy when you go (as I know you will be going back again!!).

I love reading about the history of Arles, Provence. Thank you! Isn't it always amazing how different so many things would be had it not been for the actions of a few!!

Joan McKniff said...

I love your museum and gallery visits. Thanks so very much.

Long before I knew you, I visited Musée Réattu at least once every time I visited Arles. A gem.

Gretel said...

Wonderful post!! Thank you so much! Just love the mix of architecture and Picasso's beautiful sketches with his spare but evocative line work....wonderful!!

silkannthreades said...

And a 5 year old and a 7 year old loved it too. As did I from a far distance.

robin said...

No one listens to you?? I listen to you!!!!! And your readers love you, rest assured! This little teaser did really make me want to see more of the art, but I understand that your camera went kaput (boooo!!!) plus I do love the juxtaposition of the art and the museum! It all looks lovely - I wish I could see the show with you! Plus I'm wondering just how many things have benefitted from you blogging about them/promoting them: art shows, restaurants, hotels, etc, etc. If that's not good karma, I don't know what is!

Heather Robinson said...

Judi, it took years (maybe 20?) for Reattu to buy the Commanderie. The building is so exceptional, I am so grateful that he did. After he died, his daughter kept it for 30 year before selling it to the city of Arles...with the stipulation that she was allowed to live in it for the rest of her life!

Heather Robinson said...

Ah! I wish we could be in Arles at the same time Joan. And the museum is much better than even when I knew it first in 2003.

Heather Robinson said...

The building really adapts well to many different styles - they were also the first museum to feature a sound collection, very cool!

Heather Robinson said...

Isn't that awesome? From 5 to 102! Glad you enjoyed it A, have a lovely weekend!

Heather Robinson said...

YOU are good karma, that is all I know. I have a small blog Sister, relatively speaking! But what is neat is that once something is published, it is out there. I do see that a lot of people have read the post about Jute, the espadrille makers and I know of at least one person that has contacted them (Wesley Fata!) so that makes me happy as they are nice people. Love you... :)

La Contessa said...

I would LISTEN TO YOU!I would GO after seeing these photos as I would want to move in!!!!Love the CRESTS on the ceiling..............the red wall on the LOGGIA!THis camera that is having difficulties isNOT The NEW CAMERA you received......two years ago for your birthday is it?????Was it two years ago?Seems like yesterday!XOXO

I Dream Of said...

Olé Heather! (My thoughts echoed Robin's - I most certainly listen to you!) Admittedly I was feeling a little uninspired when I woke up this morning, but a great small museum and a little Picasso are helping, so thank you. (I can't help feel energized looking at Picasso - Matisse does the same thing for me).

Another reason to return to Arles! And while it is beyond doubtful that we will make the trip before this lovely exhibit closes, the museum it self sounds wonderful.

I'm so distressed about the camera - what's it's prognosis?

Hope you have a happy weekend, friend! XOXO

simpleimages2 said...

Chance meetings led to "richness and diversity” of life. And years later a fortune for art. What a blessing to have the museum and its significant collections in Arles. Just a thought, any works of Jean Cocteau in the museum?

Thank you for the photos and video.

Karena Albert said...

Dear Heather I listen yo you and wish more than anything I could travel to see this collection. The video is wonderful as well!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena

Emilia Tremante said...

Dear H. , with your reportages Arles is in my top 20 places to visit in the near future! You showed and talked about a wonderful building and a
very interesting museum. Thank you dear!
I couldn't watch the video I don't know why.
Enjoy your Sunday!

Silke Bauer said...

Oh shame on me, I did'nt visit visit it either the last time! But one week was not so much time and if the weather would not have been as splendid as it was I would have seen it. And the funny day we spent at the incredibly charming policestation of Arles kept us away from more interesting activities. (;

The next time it will be on top of the list!

Heather Robinson said...

It was four years ago - I think - for Christmas the year I started the blog. And yes, it does seem like yesterday - and YES I can definitely imagine you making a lovely home out of the museum...

Heather Robinson said...

The prognosis is that the sensor is kaput and to replace it would nearly be as expensive as buying a new camera...which we can't afford to do! Remi forced me to try out his camera to see if I could get the hang of an SLR as he has an old one that could be cleaned up (the captor) for me to use. But yowza was it heavy and hard...so different than my little big G12! I am going to look at the photos that I took today to see how they came out...thanks for asking! Bisous..........

Heather Robinson said...

Hmmm...not that I know of Edgar. Which is surprising as he spent a significant amount of time in these parts during and after WWII. His Testament to Orpheus was filmed in nearby Les Baux. I did see one of his drawings in a house in Arles that we looked at that was for sale though!

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Karena! When I lived in NYC, I went to see every Picasso show that I could, I read the Richardson biographies...but seeing his work in such an intimate space was a treat! :)

Heather Robinson said...

Sorry about the video but I am glad that you enjoyed the rest of it. And yes, we had a lovely Sunday, including a BBQ for lunch as it was surprisingly warm! I hope that your weekend was nice as well and I am sending good thoughts to you for the week ahead...

Heather Robinson said...

Eh oui, the world's slowest police commisariat!! Once I waited three hours only for them to announce, "that's it for the day! we aren't seeing anyone else" just like that...grrr...and yes, come on, you KNOW that you have to come back to Arles one day...I can't remember - you did get to see the Van Gogh Fondation, yes? I hope so!