Louvre-Lens has another great show on Landscapes

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Eugene Delacroix, Clouds in the Sky, cir 1850, Paris Musée du Louvre, © RMN Michel Urtado

It’s always a wonderful adventure to drive to Louvre Lens, because the building designed by SANAA is extraordinary and the exhibition of the Louvre treasures on 3000 square m is visible in one look.  Over 5 000 years of objects, sculptures and paintings are shown in the Gallery of Time from the Egyptians to Napoleon in an easy, accessible and whimsical way. This time, the exhibition “What is a landscape” attracted me, and for a few minutes I felt I was seeing again “True to Nature” the fabulous show devoted to 19 th century open air painting, which took place at Fondation Custodia last year. It is very different of course, much larger with many paintings from the Louvre, but the inspiration and the presence of many “portraits of rocks ” as the regretted Ger Luijten described them, reminded me of it.

Alexandre François Desportes, Study of a tree trunk, cir 1692-1700, ©-RMN-PBA Lille, Rene Gabriel Ojeda

The first room in the show is an immersive space with five screens showing extracts of films by Chris Marker, Agnès Varda, Jane Campion… on nature, with a music composed in 1983 by Philip Glass. This dark room is a good way to get the visitor to concentrate on the next works. And “Adam and Eve chased from Paradise”, open the ball with a painting by Félix Hippolyte Lanoüe, followed by diverse creations of the world and Japanese prints by Utagawa Hiroshige, painted in the open air all around the archipelago and a book of Hokusai manga on tree leaves.

Alexandre Calame, Broken tree in Kerket near Meyringen in Oberland Bernois, 1838-1839 ©-RMN-Grand-Palais, musée du Louvre, Rene Gabriel Ojeda.

Trees and rocks follow and there is a very pretty Corot lent by the Museum of Senlis representing a peasant woman in front  of a rock in the forest of Fontainebleau as well as a study of rocks by Paul Jean Flandrin and rocks in Capri by Théodore Chassériau. Claude Monet’ rocks from Belle Ile are shown along a film of the Rocher de la Vierge (Rock of the Virgin) in Biarritz. While Bidauld’s “View of Mount Soracte at Civita Castellana” is quite overwhelming. The curator of the show is Vincent Pomarède, a specialist of Corot and former director of the paintings department at the Louvre. From preliminary studies to the full paintings,  all types of landscapes are studied here including abstract ones by Georgia O’Keefe or Joan Mitchell. The scenography is realized by Laurent Pernot, who opened up the space so that we can see different works at the same time. Blue, red and brown walls alternate with a big golden gate separating two parts of the show.

Georgia O’Keeffe, “Red, Yellow and Black Streak” 1924© Centre Pompidou, Audrey Laurans

There is a modern section which includes an 1885 painting of the Halong Bay in Tonkin by Marie Anatole Gaston Roullet, (born in 1847 in Ars en Ré) who was an official painter of the Marine, a Joan Mitchell, a Nicolas de Staël  and a Georgia O’Keefe. But there are also landscapes by the little known Georges Michel in 1850 (who was resurrected by the Custodia foundation a few years ago), a view by Biard of “Magdalena Bay with the Aurora Borelis” effect, from 1882, a very rare Hubert Robert depicting the demolition of the houses on the Notre Dame Bridge in 1786. And an imaginary countryside by George Sand who was not only a good writer but also a prolific artist.

George Sand “Dendrite, imaginary landscape”, musée de la Vie romantique © Paris Musées

The exhibition will not surprise you and I don’t particularly like the artificial lighting effects added to some of the paintings, but it shows a number of masterpieces owned by the Louvre. There are a few books and photographs as well as stage decors, a beautiful Poussin of “Moses saved from the waters”, a Bonington and a John Constable hanging together and aven a mosaic from the second century A.D.

Mileager’s hunt, mosaic discovered in Vienne, France, cir 175-225, Paris, Musée du Louvre

The variety of mediums and topics makes this exhibition less focused probably than it could have been, but the general thematic fits the public which is mostly made of foreigners travelling south and local Hauts de France  neighbors. The museum itself is worth the visit.

Louvre Lens is 2 1/2 hours drive from Paris, 40 mns south of Lille, one hour from Calais and can also be reached by train. Until July 28.

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One Comment on “Louvre-Lens has another great show on Landscapes”

  1. Thanks for the very special post on Louvre-Lens. Wish I could see it in person. With respect to art and design style, my favorite is l’art nouveau. Always on the look-out for anything related to that beautiful period in history. But everything you’re writing about seems to be of interest to me. I look forward to receiving your posts/newsletters.

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