A few things I coveted on some of my recent trips

Whenever I visit a museum or gallery or new town I inevitably find something that I’d love to hang on my wall or display in my flat, or garden. The fact that I have a) have no more room for collectables or art b) a terrace not a garden and c) couldn’t afford to buy it is immaterial. Here are a few things that recently caught my eye.

Work by Sigmar Polke in Fondation Louis Vuitton

A German painter and photographer, Polke experimented with a wide range of styles, subject matters and materials. In the 1970s, he concentrated on photography, returning to paint in the 1980s, when he produced abstract works created by chance through chemical reactions between paint and other products. This is one such work of art which hangs in the Fondation Louis Vuitton and I loved its ethereal and magical quality. Sadly I’m not sure my photo does it justice.

Renoir’s Fishes, a work from Picasso’s own collection

Even though Pierre-Auguste Renoir, a leading Impressionist, ended his days in my home town, I’m generally not a fan of some of his chocolate boxy style paintings. Of course, I’m generalising, it’s the content rather than his style that leaves me cold. He’s renowned for his luminous scenes of figures in landscapes. Renoir applied pigment with lively brushstrokes that effectively captured flickering light and atmosphere. However, this one small jewel of a painting caught my eye in the Picasso Museum. The fish positively glistened, as if freshly caught, just as they do at my local fish monger’s in Cros-de-Cagnes. Now I’m sure I could find a spot for it, somewhere, anywhere!

Corot, L’etang de Ville-d’Avray vu a travers les feuillages

The Musee Marmottan Monet which we visited last November is currently staging an exhibition of the works of Camille Corot, though of his paintings of people not the landscapes for which he’s better know. He was a prolific artist who produced over 3,000 in his lifetime, and inspired countless numbers of forgeries and copies. I prefer his realistic landscapes of Northern Europe over his historical ones which often contain figures from mythology. This painting which graces the walls of the museum of the would look fantastic on my lounge wall, if only I had enough space (and money).

Alfred Sisley: Flood at Port Marly

Last October we visited an exhibition of the works of Alfred Sisley in nearby Aix-en-Provence, many of which I’d be happy to give house room. He’s another landscape artist, a British citizen who was born and spent most of his life in France. He was the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedication to painting landscape en plein air (outdoors) which fulfilled all his artistic needs. His landscapes are very tranquil,in pale shades of green, pink, purple, dusty blue and cream. Although, over the years his power of expression and colour intensity increased.  In this picture I love how the sky is beautifully reflected in the water.

Sculpture on bridge in Ljubljana

Sadly I only have a terrace, too small to house a sizeable civic sculpture like this one I recently admired in Ljubljana. In general, I really enjoy civic sculptures and we’ve plenty decorating our own promenade but think how exciting it would be to have some in the Domaine gardens (header picture above). I can but dream!


Days out: Alfred Sisley exhibition

As I was driving past Aix-en-Provence the other week on the way back from the start of stage five of Paris-Nice 2018, I was reminded of a lovely day we had spent there last October. When we stayed in Aix-en-Provence in July to watch two stages of the Tour de France, we noted that Aix’s Hotel de Caumont had an exhibition of the works of Alfred Sisley. I resolved we’d return to Aix to see the exhibition before it closed in mid-October. We duly set aside a day in our diaries to visit both the exhibition and the town. It was a truly glorious day with temperatures peaking at 29C in Aix!

After a trip to the market for some fruit and vegetables, we headed for the exhibition on the assumption it would be quieter over lunch. Our assumption was correct, the museum wasn’t crowded. The exhibition of some sixty works, not all of which have regularly been exhibited in public, retraced the various stages in the development of Sisley’s works by focusing on some of the painter’s favourite locations – very appropriate for a landscape artist – and works from his entire career.

Although we’ve admired his work, we really didn’t know too much about him other than he was brought up in France by British parents. We discovered that, more than any other Impressionist painter, Alfred Sisley utterly devoted himself to painting landscapes, and remained faithful to the movement’s founding principles of painting the scenes in situ, outdoors. Said to be inspired by John Constable in his approach to painting landscapes based on rural motifs, Sisley would carry out a systematic visual analysis of precise places based on his knowledge and experience, exploring them in every direction, noting down the differences between the scenes with the changing light, weather and seasons.

We both love his way of capturing the effects of the light dancing on the surface of the water, the brightness of the winter sun on the snow and the ice, the movements of the trees in the wind, the depth of the rural scenes, and the immensity of the skies which produce moving works worthy of peaceful contemplation. Archive photographs of the landscapes Sisley observed are exhibited alongside his paintings to illustrate the specific methods he adopted to analyse the scenes and takes the visitor from one favourite location to the next; from those where he lived—Louveciennes, Marly-le-Roi, Sèvres, Veneux-Nadon, and Moret-sur-Loing— to those where he stayed for short periods, such as Villeneuve-la-Garenne and Argenteuil, Hampton Court and the south coast of Wales.

Feeling much more knowledgeable about his work, we departed before the hoards returned to enjoy a late lunch in the open air. It’s rare to visit an exhibition where I’d be happy to have any of the artists’ works on my walls – I should be so lucky! – but I could honestly say that of this beautifully curated exhibition. It may now have departed Aix but I’m sure it’ll pop up somewhere else soon enough.