This is a journey that extends from Paris to the south; an enchanting journey of inspiration… The exhibition Monet, Renoir… Chagall: Journeys around the Mediterranean launched at Atelier des Lumières invites visitors to discover this sunny geography in the unusual colors and carefree depictions of famous artists. Who can say no to an early summer!

As the gloom of winter is replaced by the freshness of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, we will be speaking about an exhibition that will fuel your desire of escaping somewhere far away and discovering. Even if you are thousands of feet above the Earth as you read this article, a lofty instinct will take you to the shores of the Mediterranean, and refresh your mind. After all, this involves the colors of Matisse, the depth of Bonnard, the light-heartedness of Dufy, and the boldness of Chagall. 

If you want to delve into a journey of art spanning from Impressionism to Modernism, from 19th century to 20th century, then be sure to visit Paris. The exhibition Monet, Renoir… Chagall: Voyages en Méditerranée (Journeys around the Mediterranean) was launched on February 28 at the digital art center Atelier des Lumières.

Atelier des Lumières was opened in 2018 with an exhibition dedicated to Gustav Klimt, and is a new-generation art platform which refreshes our experience of art using methods of the digital age. The art center’s 140 video projectors and spatial sound system promise visitors a brand-new, dynamic experience.

Visitors are invited from one artistic movement to another in seven separate sections: with the works of Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Impressionism reflects the fleeting images of natural elements and focuses on the artist; with Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross, Pointillism employs distinct dots on the canvas without mixing the colors on the palette; with Charles Camoin, Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Albert Marquet, Fauvism stands out as a movement with its intense use of color; and the works of Matisse Matisse who was a pioneer of Fauvism and brought new brightness to the colors of the Mediterranean light. With the decorative style of Pierre Bonnard and Raoul Dufy, and the colors of Chagall, the master of color, the exhibition is more like a visual feast, a Mediterranean carnival. And what’s more, every section is accompanied by a soundtrack prepared specially for the exhibition by pianist, composer, and performance artist Luca Longobardi.

The exhibition’s 3,300 m2 projection surfaces include not only the walls, but also the floor. Imagine Monet’s Woman with a Parasol Turned towards the Right, painted in 1886, with a lilac sky background using oil colors projected on a 10-meter-high wall. Henri-Edmond Cross’s Coastal Landscape that opens out to skies like a lavender field over the roofs of Mediterranean houses virtually absorbing you with its huge dimensions… Imagine you are drawn into Dufy’s depiction of The Bay of Angels, Nice with a white sailing boat floating on the deep blue sea like a seagull… Or strolling around The Pine Forest at Cavaliere, the work Manguin completed in 1906, which opens out into vibrant colors… The scenes Claude Joseph Vernet depicted when he was commissioned to paint the French ports by King Louis XV and reached Marseilles after sailing over the Mediterranean Sea in the 18th century welcome visitors at the entrance of the exhibition.

When the PLM railway route connected Paris to Lyon, and Marseilles in 1857, the Cote d’Azur was transformed into a tourism destination –one that still maintains its popularity today. The exhibition’s art director Gianfranco Iannuzzi describeds it thus: “It was a real discovery, fostered by the new transport opportunities. Artists generally came from other parts of the country and they found a new source of inspiration in the climate, the landscapes, light, and colors of the Mediterranean in order to free themselves from Classicism and the canons of Impressionism, which had until then prevailed amongst them. From that perspective, the artists’ journeys were not simply a change of geographical location but very often provided an opportunity for inner renewal and creative stimulation.”  

According to Iannuzzi, whether or not it is actually represented, the Mediterranean is always present in the works, as a source of inspiration, and in the light and colors. “This ‘background presence’ captivates us and is present throughout this show, in which each painter’s work reflects their distinctive view of the Mediterranean. Viewers find the opportunity to see the Mediterranean through the eyes of the landscape painter Vernet, the Impressionists Monet and Renoir, the Pointillists Signac and Cross, in the unusual colors of Matisse and the Fauves, in Bonnard’s Intimist works, in Dufy’s light-hearted and mundane depictions, and in Chagall’s provocatively Modernist paintings.”

Drama teacher Renato Gatto from Accademia Teatrale Veneta, and multimedia artist Massimiliano Siccardi are the other names who accompanied art director Gianfranco Iannuzzi when organizing the exhibition. During the preparation phase, instead of attempting to form a connection between the works to be displayed at the exhibition, Iannuzzi, Gatto, and Siccardi chose to highlight the artists’ diversity of approaches towards the Mediterranean. “Each artist found their own original way of expressing themselves on canvas, drawing inspiration from a common source,” explains Iannuzzi. “It does not matter who painted the work or which technique was used -when you view the works you can still smell the wild herbs, feel the light breeze, or hear the sound of a wave hitting the shore.”

The French cultural operator Culturespaces, which was founded in 1990 and serves in the global management and promotion of museums and cultural heritage, is behind the establishment of Atelier des Lumières. The venue, a former iron foundry built in the heart of east Paris in the 19th century, was transformed into a huge art center. I want to point out that the architectural character and historical heritage of the venue is preserved with the original metal structure in the grand hall, La Halle; the monumental structure and the details including the drying tower and water tank that visitors will come across at the exhibition. Atelier des Lumières has maintained its tradition despite the transformation, and is an art center that forms a bridge between the past, present, and future.

The exhibition Monet, Renoir… Chagall: Journeys around the Mediterranean will virtually beam visitors from a cold foundry in the heart of Paris to the warm shores of the Mediterranean. The exhibition is open until January 3, 2021 -summer in Paris has never gone on for so long!



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