Friday Fun: Vaucluse/Provence – Things to See, People to Meet

While my Provence retreat was a working holiday, I did also go out to do the touristy thing on occasion. [I have to add that my laptop died on the very first day – the third gadget in three months to do that, so perhaps that contributed to my lack of progress regarding my WIP.]

I was going to spend the morning in a café in Roussillon, working on my novel, but it was surprisingly busy (it was a sunny day after several cloudy ones), no seats to be found, so instead I bought nougat for the boys at the weekly market and wandered through the picturesque streets.

Like all villages in the area, Roussillon was built on a hill, with a view of potential marauding hordes.
Like all villages in the area, Roussillon was built on a hill, with a view of potential marauding hordes.

This area was a major producer of ochre pigment for approximately two centuries, and if you look at the cliffs surrounding the village, you can understand why.

wp_20161027_11_52_29_pro

There is a lovely trail around the former quarry - full of tourists in summer.
There is a lovely trail around the former quarry – full of tourists in summer.

The village itself ticks every box in the quaint category.

Narrow stairs leading to the upper part of the village? Check!
Narrow stairs leading to the upper part of the village? Check!
Terrace with a great view from the top? Check!
Terrace with a great view from the top? Check!
Le tricolore flying on the town hall? Check!
Le tricolore flying on the town hall? Check!
Cute little houses and artist's galleries? Check!
Cute little houses and artist’s galleries? Check!
Villas for sale? Check!
Stone villas for sale? Check!

On another evening I accompanied my hosts to an event at the beautiful Dora Maar house in Ménerbes. The villagers of Ménerbes were originally flattered to be featured in Peter Mayle’s series of books set in Provence, but he turn was not always flattering about individuals (and did not believe in anonymity), plus it led to it being completely overrun by tourists. Not hard to understand, when it looks like this.

From sablethome, com
From sablethome.com.

The Dora Maar house was bought by Picasso for his mistress when he was trying to get rid of her (he himself never lived there). It had fallen into disuse, but in 1997 an American philanthropist and friend of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston bought it and renovated it. It now offers midcareer artists, writers and film-makers the opportunity to work in peace for up to three months on a project of their choice.

doramaarhouse
I don’t know about you, but I would happily have given up Picasso for the sake of this house…
Street view of the house.
Street view of the house.

I had no battery to take any pictures (the pictures above and below are from the website of the house), but it was an unforgettable evening, featuring readings and film excerpts from two film-makers (from Australia and the UK), a Mexican writer and an American poet. My favourite place was the cosy living room/library, of course. The evening was animated by the charming Gwen Strauss, who is the director of the fellowship programme but is herself a writer, so knows all about artistic temperaments.

doramaarallianceofartistscommunities

So you know where to find me when I am more … mid-career, shall we say?

I also made the acquaintance of Canadian artist Wally Ballach, who has been living in nearby Gordes for 25 years. His paintings (some of which you can see on this site) are unusual, rather dark and disturbing, full of artistic and literary references, but Wally himself (like most crime writers) is a lovely, sunny personality. Provence is full of artists and authors who take advantage of the quieter winter months to work really hard… but they also socialise and the cultural life in this rural area is amazing.

Finally, here is an image of Gordes, the golden hilltop town that I only passed through in the car. Next time (and I’m sure there will be a next time!), I will be sure to stop.

From Avignon-et-provence website.
From Avignon-et-provence website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fun: Two Artistic Discoveries

Everyone has heard of Lalique and his famous glass creations, but have you ever heard of equally gifted and far less well-known Maurice Marinot? He was a painter and artist in glass from Troyes (1882-1960), but his glass-making period was relatively short. He only discovered the medium in 1912 and stopped working in it in 1937, when the glass factory that he had been working with closed down.

Another reason that his output wasn’t huge was that he was quite experimental (and not all the experiments went well) and a bit of a perfectionist, sometimes taking as long as a year to produce one piece. To top it all, his workshop suffered a direct hit during the Allied bombing, which destroyed most of his glass and paintings.

Here are some captivating examples of his work in the Lyon Museum of Art. Of course, glass through glass is notoriously difficult to photograph, so I apologise that you cannot see the beautiful shimmer and reflexes on these creations.

P1040530

The second artist I discovered at the Art Museum in Lyon is Louis Janmot, a 19th century Lyonnais artist whose style is oddly reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites. An ardent Catholic, deeply affected by the childhood loss of his siblings, his work is romantic and profoundly spiritual.

I fell in love with his Mona Lisa equivalent, a painting entitled Flowers of the Fields, featuring the Bugey landscape around Lyon in the background.

P1040532

However, he is best known for his magnum opus Poem of the Soul (Poème de l’âme), which he spent nearly 50 years on (and which was still not complete at the time of his death). He also wrote a lengthy poem (2800 verses) to accompany it. It’s a sort of reinvention of Catholicism, showing the life-cycle of a human, accompanied at all times by his/her soul. The first series of 18 paintings are displayed in a room in the museum.

Spring of the Soul.
4: Spring of the Soul.
The Wrong Path
7: The Wrong Path
Up the Mountain
14: On the Mountain
The Ideal - and no, this is not the final one in the series. No. 18 is called The Reality.
17: The Ideal – and no, this is not the final one in the series. No. 18 is called Reality.

 

 

Friday Fun: Tiny Escapes in Remote Locations

Chateaux and the like are all very well, but where do beleaguered artists go when they need to focus on their writing/art/belly button? As far away from the temptations of civilisation and the Internet as possible, of course.

Faroe Islands, from boredpanda.com
Faroe Islands, from boredpanda.com
Double loft rock house in US, from distractify.com
Double loft rock house in US, from distractify.com
Iceland, from boredpanda.com
Iceland, from boredpanda.com
Tiny lake house, from thetinylife.com
Tiny lake house, from thetinylife.com
Small and precariously perched in Serbia, from boredpanda.com
Small and precariously perched in Serbia, from boredpanda.com
Apuseni mountains, Romania, from hoinarind-prin-romania.fotoiustin.ro
Apuseni mountains, Romania, from hoinarind-prin-romania.fotoiustin.ro

Any of the above catch your fancy?

Sunday Escapism: Where Would You Go to Write?

New Forest Tree House Study Centre, www.cet.org.uk
New Forest Tree House Study Centre, http://www.cet.org.uk

What inspires you most?  A tree house?

Or maybe a house on the water?

cabanesdesgrandslacs.com
cabanesdesgrandslacs.com

A castle with a garden for all the five senses?

Chateau, Yvoire.
Chateau, Yvoire.

A book-lined garden shed? (Don’t think about damp and other practicalities for a moment!)

portejardin_200

In my grandiose moments, I dream of escaping to the old Royal Salt Mine designed by that mad visionary Nicolas Ledoux.  It may be architecture on a huge scale, but it’s soothingly remote.

Saline Royale, Arc-et-Senans
Saline Royale, Arc-et-Senans

In the end, though, it will have to be sofa. Or maybe my garden deck.  Still, it could be worse, right?

Terrace