Gustave Courbet, at home in Ornans

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A view of the Museum in Ornans on the river Loue © musée départemental Gustave Courbet, photo Aurélia Channaux

It is an adventure to visit Ornans in the middle of the winter but it is so worth it that I came back to Paris after a three hour train ride, totally exhilarated. It had snowed heavily the day before, so all the roads were iced between the train station of Frasne and the little town where Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was born and raised. I was met by Georges Bully, a native of the area and an old friend, whose family on both sides, has lived within 40 kms for centuries. And we started with an excellent lunch at La Cascade, in Mouthier-Haute-Pierre with Benjamin Foudral, the very young brilliant director of Musée Courbet, who also runs the Pôle Courbet, a horrible word to describe the five different attractions centered around the XIX th century painter, in the area. Read More

Iris van Herpen, a Dutch sculptor of dresses at MAD

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Dress and coiffe  “Frozen Falls”, collection Syntopia, 2018, collection Iris van Herpen

It’s definitely been a Dutch week in Paris with the inauguration of Dutch photographer Viviane Sassen‘s show at MEP and  the Iris van Herpen exhibition at MAD by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands and Brigitte Macron. The extraordinary 39 year old fashion designer is known for using avant-garde material to sculpt her dresses, and the show explores the place of the body in space and where clothes fit within their environment. 100 pieces of couture dialogue with contemporary artworks, music, and botanical elements like corals or fossils. It is Olivier Gabet’s last exhibition at MAD  (he left for Le Louvre a year ago) which he discussed with  Cloé Pitiot, the curator, as soon as she arrived at the Museum. I had noticed her excellent work in the Simone Pheulpin two years ago. She has done a terrific job again. Read More

Horace Vernet surprises in Versailles

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An Algerian Lady hawking, 1839, London, The Wallace collection

Going to Versailles on a sunny day and hot having to queue at all (there were few tourists), is such a miracle that I felt blessed while visiting the Horace Vernet exhibition in the Historical galleries created by Louis Philippe. I was afraid to be very bored with this 19 th century artist (1789-1863), the grandson of Joseph, the famous Louis XV th naval painter, and the son of the military painter Carle Vernet. Well it was not at all the case because he has painted so many different themes that we travel with him through Napoleonic wars and royal installations, ladies’ portraits, horses, hunting drawings for Toile de Jouy and romantic writers. When I mentioned this to the curator Valérie Bajou, who was touring around some British colleagues, she laughed and said: “Vernet was an opportunist, not boring at all…” She was already the curator of a brilliant exhibition on Louis Philippe in 2018 and continues here with the history of the castle of Versailles which is celebrating its 400 years of existence.

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Books, books, books, to read and to give

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The French translation of “The Christie Affair” is published by Le Cherche Midi

I had read only one book of short stories by Nina de Gramont, my talented American cousin, “Of Cats and Men” published in 2001. She has since published six more books and her latest one, “The Christie Affair” was for a long time on the New York Times best seller’s list and is translated into twenty languages. It is a fantastic read. Nina used an article on Agatha Christie’s disappearance for eleven days, at 36, after her first husband Archibald Christie dumped her. And she imagined what the author could have done in her secret hiding place. Read More

Musée Guimet celebrates Japan, a thousand years ago and today

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Hakanai Sonzai #4 © Pierre-Elie de Pibrac, Courtesy Galerie Anne-Laure Buffard Inc

The Japanese season is booming at Musée Guimet where the main exhibition, “At Prince Genji’s court” has just opened with the celebration of women’s literature in the Heian Period (794-1185), mixing short poems, waka, and prose. Fashion, art and buddhism illustrate love in “The Tale of Genji” which has fascinated generations of Japanese, during multiple periods. The story recounts the life and loves of the Imperial Prince Hikaru Genji, who cannot claim the throne. On the second floor, photographs of contemporary Japan by Pierre-Elie de Pibrac, look beautiful in the rotunda and on the third floor, Indian geologist turned artist, Manish Pushkale, shows a 19 m long screen depicting sceneries of the Andaman Islands. Read More

Nicolas Daubanes’ exceptional technique at Galerie Maubert

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Fire at the Santi-Petri, maritime prison in Toulon, 2023, iron powder on magnated paper and incandescent steel incrustations on oxidated glass, 7 500€

I first saw Nicolas Daubanes’ exceptional drawings at Drawing Now in 2021 and to my great joy, he won that year the Prize. I was first attracted by the strangeness of the black and white works and then became fascinated by his technique of using meteorite powder on paper which acts as a magnate. The reverse of a printing technique in a way. His new show, “Ton Univers Impitoyable” (your ruthless universe)  at Galerie Maubert, near place des Vosges, is partly devoted to the Abbaye de Fontevraud where he worked in residence. His drawings have a historical and memorial thread, death and prison,  and he will be exhibiting large formats at the Pantheon in 2025. He has developed here the juxtaposition of oxidated glass on the drawings. It is just fantastic (until December 9).Read More

“Testament”, another hilarious movie from Québec.

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Rémy Girard plays for the seventh time in a Denys Arcand film and he is amazing! photo Akashi Seida

I am a fan of Denys Arcand’ hilarious parodies of contemporary life and this time, “Testament” is devoted to destroying wokism which of course is a battle I love. It might be his last film, he says, and so it is another reason to rush and see it. The main character, a 70 year old retired archivist, dressed in a chic tweed three piece suit, lives in a retirement home in Montreal. The lady director is attacked by demonstrators who want to destroy a fresco describing Jacques Cartier, the explorer, meeting native people who are naked. This idea for the script came from a scene Denys Arcand had witnessed at the Metropolitan museum in New York some years ago. Read More

Georges Hugo, grandson and grandfather

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Georges Hugo, The Look out at Hauteville House, Guernsey, 1905, Villequier Musée Victor Hugo

It was fun to run into Georges Hugo’s grandson, the handsome photographer Jean Baptiste Hugo, at the opening of the exhibition “The art of being a grandson, Georges Hugo”  at Maison de Victor Hugo, place des Vosges. When I asked him about his grandfather he mentioned that none really knew him in the family since he had left his wife and sons Jea and François when haters were very little. Both became artists and jewelers and gave birth to more artists including Marie Hugo who exhibits regularly at Galerie du Passage. They both live in the family house near Arles. Read More