St Paul de Vence revisited

Of the villages perchés that I have visited in this region Gourdon and St Paul de Vence rank high.

                       St Paul de Vence

But on this visit a shock awaited me.  In the four years since I was there last, the shops have trebled.  The charm of this medieval place though, is intact – the narrow cobbled streets, sometimes with overhanging buildings, the doorways, the disappearing alleyways, the stone arches, stone walls and ramparts, tiled rooves and the Tower, characteristic of these villages in the south of France.

                   Alley way

                  St Paul de Vence Chapel

Painting of a street by Giasiotowski

            Work in an art shop

I went to the cemetery looking for a plaque on D.H. Lawrence who was buried there for some time before being exhumed and reburied in Mexico, according to his last wishes.  What I did find was Marc Chagall’s grave, tenderly decorated with little pepples.  I added mine.

                 Rest in Peace Marc Chagall

It is a place of public art, with works that surprise you as you round a corner.

        Surprise around the corner

I photographed the much-photographed amphora which, I noticed, for the first time, bears the date 1850, ten years before the Côte d’Azur became French.

                     St Paul amphora 1850

My two friends and I then had a pavement picnic while the unceasing lines of tourists arrived and left.  This will enter the archive of my special memories.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

 

Images

My photographs

 

Dedicated, with gratitude, to Graham and Elna

Fondation Maeght revisited

I rendezvous-ed with my two South African friends in Antibes and was spirited off to St Paul de Vence, north-west of Nice.  I told them of Fondation Maeght and before long we were motoring up the hill into the forest where this gallery perches on a cliff overlooking the Côte d’Azur.

This gallery, inaugurated in 1964 by André Malraux, was designed by the Catalonian architect Lluis Sert (no, that double l is not a typo).  It was my third visit and for the first time I saw (I think I saw) the motif in the form of the building:  it is the head of a bull.

                            Fondation Maeght

At my first visit many years ago I was struck by the quirky creativity of the place itself and the marvelous obsession with art.  The artists, at an invitation, ran full tilt ahead of that white-horned bull – Miro, Giacometti, Braque, Chagall, Léger, Arp, Bonnard, Nash, Calder, Hepworth.  It reads like a Who’s Who of modernist and contemporary art.

Alexander Calder 1963

Jean Arp Le Pepin géant 1956

Marc Chagall mural (detail)

Joan Miro Labyrinthe

There is currently an exhibition by the Spanish artist Eduard Arroyo.  His work is a revelation to me.  From powerful sculptures to his thought-provoking paintings, often cryptic, his styles draw from a bewildering number of sources.

Orroyo painting

Orroyo rhino

Yes, I get lyrical about the place.  A family with the means created something astounding here.  For art lovers it must be like leaping wildly into an icy rushing mountain stream.

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

 

Source

Museum pamphlet

 

Images

My photographs

 

Dedicated, with gratitude, to Graham and Elna

EMILE NOLDE – expressionist

It is the flattest landscape I’ve yet seen, the road to Seëbull, on the border between Germany and Denmark.  The roads are arrows; the poplar trees that line them are organ pipes.  The Free State is mountainous, by comparison. Here, in Seëbull, we find the Emile Nolde Foundation, a building in the style of the Bauhaus, which Nolde designed as his home in the 1920s.

                  The Emile Nolde Foundation

                   Emile Nolde, 1929

Today it is an art gallery, surrounded by gardens, also his design.  The spacious gallery displays a hearty number of his works.

                    Self-portrait, 1917

He was an expressionist, part of a movement that was paralleled by the Fauves in France, a movement that was suppressed by the Nazis in the late-1930s.  In this regard there is a painful irony in the life of Emile Nolde.

                Red and yellow sunflowers, 1920

In the chaos and bitterness after the First World War, he was attracted to the new political party of the Nazis, with anti-semitism to boot.  But after they had taken power in 1933, Nolde found himself officially declared as a “decadent” artist, with over a thousand of his works confiscated. Some were displayed in the exhibition of Entartete Kunst in 1937 to be mocked.

   Poster for the 1937 exhibition

The Nazis forbid him to do any further painting, but he worked on in secret.  These works he called his “unpainted paintings”.

“The Argument” – one of the unpainted paintings 1938 – 1945

After the war the honour Emile Nolde deserved was restored.  He died in 1956 at the age of 89.

     The Prophet, etching, 1911

For me his work touches abstraction at times, a characteristic mode of modernist painting.  The planes of colour surprise.  His human figures, most often earthy, even childlike and primitive, sabre the painting traditions away.  What he does sometimes moves under a dark cloud.

          “Landscape with young horses”, 1916

His painting is not detailed.  His spirit shatters that.  His world bursts open, full and rich.  His paintbrush is broad, as a landscape.

                          “Underway”, 19 –

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

 

Source

Wikipedia :  Emile Nolde

 

Images

The gallery – Emile Nolde-Stift

Photo – Emile Nolde-Stift

Red and yellow sunflowers – PerformArts

Self-portrait – PerformArts

“Entartete Kunst”-poster – Nolde Stift

Prophet etching – PerformArts

“Underway” – PerformArts

 

 

 

 

 

 

ROMANESQUE AND GOTHIC – the human figure

 The human figure in a Romanesque church is small, stylized and, if you look, you see they are busy with something specific in their lives – they drive out demons or flee to Egypt on the back of a donkey.  Bernwards Portal, Hildesheim, Germany, illustrates this memorably.

Bernwards Portal: God gives Eve to Adam

The intention of the sculptor, probably prescribed by the church, is educational and illustrative.  Incidents from the Bible are portrayed.  What strikes me, is how childlike the figures are, almost as if the communities they were intended for, were childlike, eight, nine centuries after Christ.  It is a Europe rising from the shadows of the Dark Ages.  It is as if the search for form is breaking from the post-Roman world, from the world of Byzantine (400 – 600 a.d.).

Romanesque capital: the strange and the charming

There is Eastern influence in the form of the Romanesque figure of the human – monsters, devils and decorative motifs.  Some of the scenes portrayed in Romanesque are deliberately dramatic.  An example is Judas hanging himself.  The incredible variety of figures and forms suggest that sculptors were often left to their own devices.  The world of Romanesque figures is one of surprises.

 

Romanesque – a world of surprises

The churches with their rounded arches are to a human scale.  What they built, was houses of God, not cathedrals.  The pillars, the panels of art, everything is within easy reach, with you.

The wind changes direction from the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Western culture.  It is a renewal that would, in the centuries to come, be reborn in different forms.  The need to make a greater statement with churches yielded to the concept of cathedrals of monumental dimensions.

Notre Dame de Paris – monument to Gothic

This is Gothic.  Even today contemporary architects stand amazed by what was achieved.  So too, the form of human figure changed.

Chartres Cathedral Portal

I am referring specifically to the portals of Notre Dame in Paris and Chartres Cathedral.  Here the human figures lose their caprice.  Now the figures, as part of the new architecture, form a uniform community of believers, rather than individual figures busy with something specific.  The figures stand formally next to one another.  The vertical line dominates in the design.  The figures are static in their ecstasy.  They are focused on the coming life, a choir of figures untroubled by this world.  My interest comes from limited experience, but I will not forget the figures of the portals of Chartres – stone that radiates.

A radiance from stone

 

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

www.loertoer.wordpress.com

 

Images

Bernwards Portal – studyblue.com

Romanesque capitals 1, 2  –  Pinterest

Notre Dame de Paris – sacred-destination.com

Chartres Portal and detail – chartrescathedral.net

 

 

 

France, Germany  

 

 

SIX BROTHERS – a true story

“Hercules,” André Brink writes in his book Midi, “was the first famous traveler in Provence.”  We read this with irony – is it myth or legend?  Then too, we hear of accounts that feel forced, that editors would regard with a fatherly smile before they reject them, stories that are in fact true.  We know by now that fact can astound us more than fiction.

My partner Claudie’s married name does not sound French, as she is.  She told me that her late husband’s ancestors were from Alsace Lorraine, that part of France that has moved between German and French possession, with people sometimes feeling more German or more French.  And the region has produced some remarkable individuals – Albert Schweizer, theologian and missionary, and Kurt Schwitters, artist and poet, to mention only two.

Claudie’s late husband had a half-brother who paid us a visit, relating how the surname he shares with Claudie, lost the diaeresis on the “a” which in German would have had the sound of an “e”.

But it is the split nature of this region that interests me and Daniel related to us the story of his grandfather’s uncles, six brothers.  Three of these brothers, the older ones, were born and bred in the French town of Épinal.  The other three were born and bred in Strasbourg.

                Strasbourg, city with two faces

The former were French-speaking, while the latter were more inclined to German – in one family!  When World War Two was declared, the French brothers joined the French army, while the three German-speakers joined the German army.

                         Germans occupiers 

In May, 1940, Petain surrendered to the Germans and the first three returned to their former lives, feeding chickens, delivering post.  By 1942, the tide was turning for the German invaders.  They had been defeated in North Africa and Stalingrad.  The second group who had joined the Germans felt disillusioned and deserted the German army.  For various reasons, Daniel told us, they had begun to find a French identity more attractive, even envying their older brothers.  One of them was caught and by a miracle not executed, spending the rest of the war in prison in the little town of Bacara.  The remaining two slipped through the German lines and joined the French Resistance in the Pyrenese mountains.

              French Resistance

The last irony in this story is that the symbol of the French Resistance, the cross with its double horizontal beams, was chosen by Charles de Gaulle and which is close to the hearts of the French, takes its origin from Alsace Lorraine.

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

 

Source:  with thanks to Daniel M.

Images

Strasbourg – iha.fr

German invasion – ushmm.org

French Resistance – Getty images

(Photograph of De Gaulle monument, Antibes – mine) 

 

 

 

AMRAS CASTLE, Innsbruck

Schloss Amras, Innsbruck

I won’t forget Schloss Amras.  I can’t.  What you see there, won’t let go – a portrait of a man living with a spear through his right eye; portraits of the Hair People; an original portrait of Dracula.  And that is not all.  What kind of place is this?

Spear man

Vlad Tepes a.k.a. Dracula

This Castle, on the slopes of the mountain above Innsbruck, was established nearly 450 years ago by Archduke Ferdinand II (1529-1595).  The assembling of curious objects at that time has made the collection rate as the oldest museum of its kind in the world.  Austrians cherish the place, which has a history from the 10th-century, as of their most valuable heritage, a monument to the rebirth of European culture, the Renaissance.

The skull of a reindeer whose horns got stuck in the bark of a tree, the unique collection of armour … the Hall of Art and  Wonders yields one surprise after the other.  The portrait of Dracula had me a touch skeptical, but the portrait of the Hair People were a revelation.

Der Haarmensch von Munchen

The Hair People – a father and his children – were hairy from head to toe, including their faces, making me think of coarse fur.  Pedro Gonzales, the father, was born in 1550 on Tenerife.

Rather formally he posed for the painter in 1580, so becoming a talking-point in Europe.  In the family portrait the mother is present,  smooth and hairless.   The formality of the portraits is striking, perhaps to counter centuries of myths and legends about the figure of the Wild Man in European folklore and elsewhere.

The Wild Man

It was the spirit of the Renaissance that made for the documenting of the phenomenon instead of a superstitious reaction that might well have led to a cruel eradication of “a sign of evil”.  With this particular case and with the various museum spaces at Amras we experience the convergence of science, conservation, appreciation and wonder.  Today there is a medical term drawn from the hair people which originates from Amras.

What would Darwin have said?

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017

 

Sources

« Der Haarmensch von Műnchen » – internet-article

Wikipedia :  Castle Ambras

Encyclopédie des Symboles – “L’Homme Sauvage”

[Notice the variant spelling of Amras / Ambras.]

  

Images

Schloss Ambras – Wikipedia

Vlad Tepes / Dracula – Pinterest

Spear man  – Pinterest

Haarmensch – formal portrait – Pinterest

Haarmensch – detail  –  Pinterest

L’homme sauvage – Encyclopédie des Symboles

 

 

 

 

 

JACQUES DOLLE

They argue about his name.  He is not Jacques, they insist, it’s Joseph.  He is worthy of the attention:  he left his mark on the city of his birth, more than a mark.  Born in Antibes in 1650, he is considered by some as a master sculptor.  The work he did in the Cathedral of St Mary, the main cathedral in the city, bears out this opinion.  At the portal you see what he was capable of, as intriguing a character, as he was mysterious,  in the history of Antibes.

                 Cathedral Portal

               Portal relief figure

 

               Portal relief figure

These relief figures depict legends and stories from the Bible, detailed work in the spirit of baroque, fitting if one considers too, the classic baroque of the church façade.  In the church we see the pulpit and the baptism font, both his handiwork.

                        The Pulpit

                             Baptism font

He attracted attention, especially if one considers the competition at the time from many Italian sculptors.  The Sun King, Louis XIV, came to hear of him and he went north for a few projects.  In Antibes there is too, his master work The Portal of France, a majestic Gate with a finely-fashioned pediment, that we know from a postcard.  But, the tourist office informed me, it is in a state of advanced neglect, with buildings around it making it virtually impossible to see.  On the reverse side of building, as a kind of compensation for the neglect, a pediment in full view of the street has been constructed, but the detail, I’m told, is clearly inferior to Dolle’s original work.  To add insult, it is recorded in the archives that he was never paid for this work.

It is also a story of creeping hatred.  For certain reasons he was not popular amongst the aristocracy, perhaps because of his humble origins.  Badmouthing poisoned his life.  He was stained with supposed paranormal activities.  One piece of scandal had it that, in the garden of a wealthy marquis, Dolle trafficked with white female spirit.  It was subsequently found that the “white spirit” had in fact been a marble Venus figure, from the time of the Romans.

His health deteriorated and he withdrew from life to the Monastery of Laghet where he dedicated himself to God.  Shortly before his death, − it was the year 1730 − he returned to Antibes, to the white marble figure in the garden of the marquis, the Venus that he had never forgotten, the figure that haunted him yet.  The next day they found him lifeless at her feet.

                                       Venus

 

© Will van der Walt

www.willwilltravel.wordpress.com

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017

 

Source

Pierre Tosan : Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins. HEPTA Antibes, 1998.

Images

Portal panels – my photos

Pulpit, baptism font – Dictionnaire d’Antibes Juan-Les-Pins

My drawing.

 

%d bloggers like this: