There is an exhilarating feeling in landing at Perpignan airport, in the gentle warmth of early summer, and driving straight to Collioure, the famous little port where Matisse (Fenetre, 1914), Signac, Derain and friends used to paint at the beginning of the XX th century. The 3 000 population Mediterranean fort and beach are minuscule and so is the museum where an exhibition of French artist Pierre Buraglio is taking place this summer. I could not resist buying fresh anchovies on the way and realised that this busy little town has a dual attraction that of fish and Banyuls wine.
Buraglio’s grandfather was an Italian mason working in Paris, and he is part of the Supports/surfaces movement of which many artists such as Viallat, Vincent Bioulès, Toni Grand, Louis Cane or Bernard Pagès, have worked in the area. In the 60’s these painters used very modest objects to create their pieces, and they have initiated the French contemporary art period.
I particularly liked the large show window with open envelopes and a blue lining. Those were used for French administrative letters and very often, civil servants used to open them flat and write on them in order to save paper. Buraglio uses them as accessories for his work. Equally, two Gauloise cigarette packs are the symbol of a period. In parallel you can see at galerie Jean Fournier in Paris his exhibition « Découper » until July 31. (Musée d’art moderne de Collioure until September 20 th).
The road is pretty and it is only a half hour to drive to Céret, the famous artist’s town in the Oriental Pyrénées, where Picasso, Catalan sculptor Manolo, André Masson, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Albert Marquet, all stayed in the Couvent des Capucins bought by Frank Burty Haviland in 1912. One can imagine what this beautiful inland town could have been in those years with the young ambitious painters and sculptors all ready to become famous! They visited Maillol in Banyuls, or Matisse in Collioure and found there a free house and meal. Jean Marchand illustrated the Céret of the time especially well. The Museum has a good collection of Picassos, a portrait of “Corisa Pere Romeu” from the blue period and many clay « Tauromachie » plates and coupelles given by the artist. And two beautiful Chagall “Les gens du voyage” and “Guerre” are on loan from Pompidou Center.
Later, Raoul Dufy spent part of the war there and Edouard Pignon came to paint in 1944-46.
And on the road between the Méditerranée and the Pyrénées mountains, with Amélie les Bains, a thermal town nearby named after the Queen Marie Amélie, one understands how they could all be so inspired! I had wanted to visit these two artistic towns for a long time, but they are quite out of the way. Thank God, I was conveniently due south in Pals for an International golf tournament and loved discovering these historical sites. On June 27 th, started a show of monumental “Ladies’ heads with their eyes closed”, by Jaume Plensa, the Catalan sculptor who lives in Barcelona. (Until November 15 th, Musée d’art Moderne de Céret)
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