ART FELL ON ME – the work of Nicolas Lavarenne

The first in a series of two

During 2017 more than twenty sculptures of the Nice-born artist Nicolas Lavarenne took to the streets of the medieval quarter of Antibes.  As a kind of exhibition, they were placed at strategic spots, some mounted on chrome beams to raise them above the cobbles.

About his work, Lavarenne has said, “Naked as the first man who stood up to see further, my sculptures dash on their stilts to survey the time. Detached from the earth, pinned to the sky, they run from town to town and around the world … And I’m happy with them.”

Some may be tempted to speak of the sculptural style as « realistic », but it is, of course, not realistic.  Despite the accurate anatomy of the figures, they are idealized, attenuated.

It could be the energy of the figures that made me think of figures in baroque painting, but the angularity is far more stark.

Almost all the figures are gestural.  They challenge their world, leap up at it.  They are bold, defying wind, it seems. “Pinned to the sky,” Lavarenne says.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2018



Official biography online – Nicolas Lavarenne



My photographs

See also:  Lavarenne en Plensa: Kuns in die openbaar   on    26/5/2016 


For Graham and Elna, who shared this with me







ART FELL ON ME – the work of Nicolas Lavarenne

The second in a series of two

It is the drama of these figures that make them memorable.  Yet, there are figures that languidly contrast with all the gusto.  There is the Dozer and the Thinker.


The placing of the figures might well have been done by Lavarenne himself.  One leaps off the wall of Les Remparts;  another is framed by the arch of Porte de l’Orme.  And one, above the Harbour Gate, hails the world on his haunches.

They chase each other on the remnants of the Antibes City Wall.  And one quirkily plays in the solemn presence of Plensa’s Nomade on the St Jaume ramparts.

It is the spontaneity, the vigorous spirit of creation, that brings on Lavarenne’s humorous remark that “Art fell on me.”  For centuries art was confined to galleries and statues were almost all cultural-political.  From the 20th-century there is a new emphasis on public sculpture.  Lavarenne is a flag-bearer in this liberation.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2018



Official Biography Nicolas Lavarenne



My photographs

 See also    Lavarenne en Plensa: Kuns in die openbaar

on  26/05/2018

For Graham and Elna, who shared this with me





Modernism put its own stamp on the traditional and much-respected art of stained glass windows.  The Côte d’Azur is no exception.  Déco designers in the first decades of the 20th-century in Nice heralded the departure from the traditions.

They often abandoned figurative form characteristic of a thousand years of stained glass.  Stained glass windows now became part of secular buildings.

In the early-1950s, Matisse, inspired by the ideas of Sister Jacques-Marie, simplified the designs as they had never been.  His theme was light.


The Notre Dame de l’Assomption , Rue de Grasse, Antibes, was built in the 1950s.  The stained glass design is abstract.  I was struck by the large fluted window which is strangely radiant according to your position in the church.

Galerie Maeght, near St Paul de Vence, was completed in the early-1960s.  The inspirational window by Georges Braque is in the chapel on the grounds of the Gallery.

Elsewhere in the building there are two rather entertaining secular windows by Joan Miro.


                        Stained Glass by Miro

In the afternoons, when I take my walk, I pass the little Eglise de Ste Marguerite, in which I once photographed the remarkable window.  The church dates from the early-1960s.

There is a return to traditional form in the auditorium windows of L’Eglise du Sacre Coeur, Antibes.  This church, strikingly modern in its design, was built from 1969 to 1972.  On the porch, though, there are windows with abstract design.



© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

April, 2018



Wikipedia – Stained glass windows in the modern era



Deco image – Paul Castela: Splendeurs de Nice (Editions Giletta. Nice, 1991.)

My photographs


See also “Gekleurde glas” –





Murals on the highway

Les Semboules, a suburb on the outskirts of Antibes, is post-1960s flatland with some cluster development.  The murals that I have seen here, the hip hop work, probably have little to do with their Bronx origins of the 1970s and 1980s.  What appeals to artists here, it seems, is the yang-energy that has manifest this cousin to abstract expressionism internationally.

There is portraiture, one of which is Jacques Prevert, the avant-garde poet, after whom the primary school is named.  The last one I found particularly interesting.

Jacques Prevert


The murals following took the place of this last mural.

On many of the temporary screens surrounding building sites, there is a spontaneous outpouring of mural art.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2018



My photographs


Murals at the physio’s practice




 When I am tempted to wax eloquent about wine, I am cautioned.  That caution takes the form of a short story by Roald Dahl called Taste.  So I am persuaded to let others say it … the wise, the witty and the lovers of wine.

“The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learnt to cultivate the olive and the vine”  –  Thucydides, Greek historian, 5th-century BC.

“Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever” – Aristophanes, Greek playwright, 4th-century BC

“Either give me more wine or leave me alone”  –  Rumi, poet, 12th-century

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy”  –  Benjamin Franklin, statesman, 18th-century

“Wine … the intellectual part of the meal”  –  Alexandre Dumas, novelist, 19-century

“Wine is the most civilized thing in the world”  –  Ernest Hemingway, novelist, 20th-century

“If food is the body of good living, wine is the soul  –  Clifton Fadiman, wine lover, 20th-century

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2018


Quotation sources

Ceja Vineyards Wine quotes

Hopewell Valley

Wine Folly



My photographs of wines I’ve had in France

 Drawing by Ben Nicholson 







Warm goats cheese salad

Dark caviar

The French eat and they do it like few other Western cultures.  I confess that my impression is from French television.  Switch from channel to channel and you see their love for food, the training of cooks, the variations on a well-known recipe, food competitions, traditional ways of preparing food, French approaches to foreign foods, experimentation … the list goes on.

It is not that French people are insensitive to what is happening in the rest of the world or willfully uninformed.  My impression is that preparing and serving Coquille St Jacques is as important to them as  the results of the Russian elections.  That a new Provencal recipe on asparagus-and-salmon gets as much attention as human trafficking in Indonesia.  That salade endives is at least as important as steel tarrifs in America.

Coquille St Jacques

Taste-wise and philosophically, I approve.  We are encouraged to live for the moment, in the moment.  There is nothing like the sumptuous taste of good food to bring you to the present.  The French are masters of this.


Alice B. Toklas, an outsider to French culture, writes, “The French approach to food is characteristic;  they bring to their consideration of the table the same application, respect, intelligence and lively interest that they have for painting, for literature, and for the theatre.”

And we haven’t even started on wine in France.  On this John Keats writes …

O for a beaker full of the warm South, 

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, 

                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, 

                        And purple-stained mouth…

 And that isn’t even a Frenchman.

 Instead of “Live well,” the French say, “Mangez bien.”  (Eat well).

A cup of café au lait in a bistro on the Seine

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2018



Alice B. Toklas quotation –

John Keats:  Ode to a Nightingale



My photographs (of plates I have enjoyed)




SNOW – the long wait

I open the lounge window to the sound of rain falling on the leaves of the magnolia tree.  But where is the snow? I wonder.  It is not a strange question for one from the Western Cape to ask.  Will it be that I’ll miss snow for one more year on the continent of Europe?

My experiences with snow are few and far between.  It was only when I spent a winter in South Korea that I could join the conversation.

The tree of snow, Daeso

A jonja, covered with snow, Daeso


Poetry in snow, Daeso

In France I find myself, weather-wise, in a strange region.  The Côte d’Azur is wedged into the south western corner of the country.  The rest of France is three to four degrees below freezing (c), while the mercury in the Cote d’Azur stands at 12°c.  France is washed away by floods and the Côte d’Azur is dry and sunny.  My partner Claudie calls that sun a Moroccan sun.  Perhaps climate change is not a hoax, as some insist.

Claudie, who has lived here for more than 30 years, cannot remember when last it snowed.  In 2008, there was a freak snow fall in Port Vauban, the harbour of Antibes.

In 2012, there was even less.

Today we see television scenes of Paris, at minus 20°c, under heavy snow.  The media are full of debates as to why the country was caught napping with this snow fall.  But under the superficial irritation for the inconveniences, lurks the European’s love for snow.  In a distance one hears the melancholy song Tombe la neige (The snow falls) by Salvatore Adamo.

Snow … which softens things, refreshes them, purifies them, simplifies the forms of things, allows objects to peep out from under the blinding white of the crystal blanket, that brings smiles and playfulness, that changes the world.

I wait in the sound of the rain on the magnolia leaves.  The lady on the television screen says that the mercury will lie at 10°c for us.  Still, when the rain stops, I’ll take my walk and marvel at the pre-Alps with their ponchos of snow.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

February, 2018



France 2 television



Snow in Daeso – my photos

Snow in Port Vauban – Don Dwinell (2008)

Snow in Antibes – Lesley Stem, Real France (2012)

Snow on the pre-Alps – my photo






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