In Part 3 of Plein Air art - Looking Back, I follow the development of plein air art during the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Europe as so many artists paved the way for present-day interpretations of nature and the outdoors.Read More
The snow had fallen all night, but the morning dawned clear and sharp. To the south, as I topped the first rise of the hills, lay the Pyrenees, higher, more intricate in form and peak, more immense in span of horizon than I remembered. My second time as an artist in residence at Bordeneuve was beginning in beauty. Some of the peaks were blushed pink-apricot, others were subdued in greys and pearls. The foreground of rolling, energy-filled hills was their prelude, dark with winter filigree of trees. This massive display of seemingly timeless mountain ranges, so memorable, so old, so sacred and so wildly beautiful, left me with mixed emotions. I could understand why early man used the Pyrenees mountain caves and dwelt in these abodes close to their food sources and to their gods.Read More
It was a chance remark made as I was leaving to revisit Vézelay, the amazing Basilica which dates from the mid-ninth century: "You'll be going to the Zervos Museum too, won't you?" I stopped in my tracks. I had never heard of this museum. So it was explained to me that this was a small gem of a museum, not to be missed. Easy to find as you climb the hill to the imposing Basilica dominating the hills of green central Burgundy.
So after I had lingered and marvelled at the Romanesque architecture, the extraordinary stone carvings on portals and pillars (now a little over-restored to my eyes, but perhaps I should not cavil) and listened to monks and nuns chanting their midday services, I found my way to the discreet entrance to the Zervos Museum.
After a charming welcome, I wandered into the house, once the home of Romain Rolland, the French writer, who spent time there during the Second World War until his death in 1944. Christian Zervos, born in Greece but a naturalised Frenchman, was noted for his Cahiers d'Art which he edited from his rue du Dragon office in Paris' 6th arrondissement, above the gallery he also ran. His connections to Vézelay began when he and his wife bought a small farm there in 1937; there they entertained Picasso, Léger, Le Corbusier, Paul Eluard and many other artists over the years. In 1970, Zervos left his collection of Cahiers d'Art and art to Vézelay. He and his wife, Yvonne, are buried in the cemetery near the Basilica.
I was indeed fascinated and astonished at the museum art collection, which ranges from Kandinsky, Giocometti and Miro to Calder mobiles and a small painting, Picassos, a huge Léger mural, Raoul Dufy, Dogon sculptures from Mali, small but exquisite Cycladic and Middle Eastern pieces. A personal collection, acquired with friendship and a keen, discerning eye - the result is a delight to see.
The small museum is beautifully arranged, with a clever adaption of the house and its still-personal Roland touches. The views out over Burgundy are timeless and beautiful, even on a grey afternoon. The bonus is the wonderful post and beam attic, where the Cahiers d'Art, the Cycladic and other objects are displayed. It is just beautiful in its strength and harmony.
I was so entranced that I forgot to take photographs, but I have found these images on the web. They give a flavour of a museum well worth a visit when you have the luck to travel to Vézelay, France.
The New Year dawns grey and soft over the marshes of Georgia, with wood storks sailing high and exquisite little American Goldfinches rushing to feast on the sunflower seeds in the feeders. 2014 - it starts beautifully and gently. Today is one version of the wide marshland world, but the memory of so many others underpins today's views.
It is one of those times when art is more a concept than an action: there do not seem to be enough hours in the day to paint or draw at the moment, But that will change as everything in life comes in cycles. It is a time instead to reach out to other artists, to seek opportunities to share with others the art that I have created in past months and years. That aspect of being an artist is full of fascinations and rewards too: some of my most delightful friends are fellow artists, some of whom I only know via the Internet and telephone. But their art is eloquent and tells of their inner soul.
Thinking ahead to the New Year and art endeavours is always exciting - an Artist Residency in Portugal ahead, perhaps others in France if I get accepted, landscapes to celebrate in paint, silverpoint drawings to develop. Always with the thought that nature, in its wonder and diversity, is the lodestar of my art, for I never tire of its incredible detail and grandiose complexity. Perhaps the thought of enormous climatic changes impending lends urgency to my desire to celebrate the natural world around me that I know and love so deeply.
I came across a quote that I had jotted down on a Post-It note ages ago: I don't know whence it comes and for once, Google does not help me find its source: "And those that limned with magic brush, The fleeting joys of earth."
So many wonderful artists down the ages, from 30,000 years ago until today, who give us joy with their magic brushes - it is a heritage for which we are all the richer, and one which each of us needs to celebrate, mindful of the "fleeting joys of earth".
Somehow, it seems part of an appropriate New Year toast to my friends and my fellow artists as I wish everyone Molts d'Anys, Happy New Year!