Picasso’s “War and Peace”, Vallauris

Adjoining the Vallauris museum with Picasso’s pottery, there is a stone chapel (probably deconsecrated) that has been given to Picasso’s painting  “La Guerre et la Paix” (War and Peace).   The nave of the chapel is starkly empty with only the museum attendant on her chair.  Light pours in from a high single window in the gothic apex.

I went through a low entrance to the next chamber whose walls are concave.  On the left, there are panels on which Picasso depicted war and on the right, peace.  At the head of the chamber perhaps five or six metres in length, is a depiction of four human figures, painted in white, black, red and yellow, holding up a dove that is carrying an olive branch.

My immediate thought was of Guernica, which was painted in 1937 savagely lamenting the bombing of the Spanish city.   And there are elements that do recall Guernica, but it is different in conception, having been executed in 1952, perhaps when the horrors of the Second World War were receding.

The War panels centre on the silhouettes of five killers linked in a right-to-left sequence of movement. This action happens before a serene grey-tinted figure with a dove on his shield.  To the right of these depictions is the image of a faun or satyr (see horns) with a bloodied sword and a bag of human heads slung over his shoulder.  He is conveyed in a vehicle that looks like a coffin.  The images are framed in clouds of grey, dark brown and – near the peace warrior – deep blue.

The Peace panels centre on marvellously distorted, voluptuous women dancing while a young boy has harnessed a Pegasus-like horse.    On the far left, a faun plays a split flute.  (It is interesting that Picasso remarked that, once he had left Paris and settled on the Côte d’Azur, that he began to paint more satyrs and fauns, implying that he was closer to the ancient forests where they had mythologically lived.)  Above these figures, – you have to crane your neck to see this – there is a strange sun-like mass radiating olive branches.

Seeing this work, I was moved by the deep longing for peace in what he did, amidst the most destructive century in history, for human beings to be confronted here with a universe of their own making, the pain and the healing.

Picasso’s “War and Peace” is amply worth the pilgrimage that one may want to make to Vallauris to see it.

Will van der Walt ©

Mercredi  12 Decembre 2012

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Images Sources:  Succession Paris et R.M.N. Paris, Photo Patrick Gérin

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Vallauris: Pots, Paintings and Picasso

The moment you see the welcoming sign to Vallauris, 15 minutes’ drive from Antibes, you know that this place will have the stamp or brushstroke of the 20th-century’s best-known artist.  From the mid-1940s Picasso developed an interest, even passion, in extending his ceramic skills and found a warm welcome in Vallauris, a village with a long, though indefinite, history of potters and ceramicists.

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Hopping off the ‘bus, I was confronted by a little ionic temple oddly framed in a street of nondescript buildings.  It had been constructed in 1900 by Clement Massier in honour of his daughter.  The pediment was crumbling.  I couldn’t help noticing that with a kind of romantic glee.

Avenue Georges Clemenceau is the main street through the village, remarkably unremarkable.  One shop displays a large photograph of Picasso having a haircut in a local salon.  There are a few pottery and ceramic shops with wares that did not really appeal to me.  In a small gallery shop I met an artist whose work, interesting and imaginative, was on display.  I was given access to an inner sanctum where the proprietor presided over a collection of art for sale – lithographs by Dali, Chagall and César, amongst others.  The one Dali was going for a mere €2,600 (close to R30,000).

I wandered up to the baroque cathedral with its mellow, caramel-coloured façade dominating the place where there is a monument to the fallen in the two world wars.  The figure in the monument holds his own head in anguish as a benign angel of death supports him.  The flowers and wreathes on the pedestal were fresh.

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In a building rather grandly titled Le Chateau, I visited the museum that houses ceramics that Picasso fashioned from the mid-1940s to the late-1960s.  It is an experience that refreshes – the bright colours, the humour and the playfulness.  Comic faces, owls, scenes from bullfights, fish, on plates and pots of intriguing design.  It was his enthusiasm, his creativity and promotion of the medium that brought about what has been called L’âge d’or de Vallauris (the golden age of Vallauris).  He joined a momentum that had begun in the 1930s with potters, ceramicists and sculptors of note.

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Something of this momentum was seen on the ground floor where several contemporary ceramicist-sculptors were exhibiting their work, often strange and startling.  It left me with an ache for this creative climate to manifest to a greater degree where I come from.

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As always with travel, there comes the surprise. On the upper floor was an exhibition by Alberto Magnelli (1888-1971), an abstract painter I had never heard of.  I was swept by the gratifying juxtapositions, strong forms and august colours. Each work is memorable.   It was difficult to tear myself away.

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As I left the museum, I saw, on a wall above the parking area, a large close-up of two passionate eyes  – the citoyen d’honneur of Vallauris burning his gaze into history.

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Will van der Walt ©

Mercredi  12 Decembere  2012

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Image sources:  Massier temple, monument figure, Picasso eyes –  Will

Ceramic faces – nmao.go.jp

Ceramic pot – artnet.tumblr.com

Magnelli –  Editions S.M.D.

Marina Bay of Angels

Marina Baie des Anges, Côte d’Azur 

Claudie and I motored out to the bay east of Antibes called Baie des Anges, The Bay of Angels.  The point of interest here is the Marina, a series of interlinked apartment blocks that must be of the most remarkable in the world.  It was completed in 1960 and the designer was André Minangoy.  It was the time of other historic achievements – the Guggenheim Museum in New York (Lloyd Wright, 1959); Brasilia in Brazil (Niemeyer, 1960).

Marina 4

What is so striking when viewing the Marina from a little distance is, that, like four flattish pyramids, their upper line takes the eye on a wave-like motion.  As you get closer you see that each one is S-curled in itself!  I have seldom, if ever, seen such organic design.  When you’re walking near them, next to them, the wave motif becomes even more pronounced.

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Each block has about 17 floors and people have made their own little gardens on the terraces.  The bay itself has forests of yacht masts and judging from the car models parked there you realise that this is the territory of the Income Bracket.  The place was empty of people, though – a slightly unreal overcast and deserted world.  The beaches were ruins of driftwood and twisted grey seaweed, the remains of a savage storm some weeks before, desolation at the feet of splendour.

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Will van der Walt ©

Mercredi 30 Novembre 2011

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Image Sourcesageheureux.canterblog.net and Will 

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