I have now been back from France for a week and have finally gotten over the fog of jet lag. While in France this time, I didn't get to see the amount of art that I usually enjoy seeing during my travels. That said, I was able to visit fascinating sights and enjoy an extraordinary landscape. In fact, while at the West Mill, I spent as much time as possible beside the stunningly beautiful Gardon River.
I also was able to visit Musee Angladon in Avignon, which is a house museum that displays some of the collection of the Parisian couturier Jacques Doucet (1853-1929). There is work by Cezanne, Van Gogh and Manet to name a few of the artists that had been collected, and are on view at the museum. In fact, the only piece in the south of France from Van Gogh's Arles period is in this location. The wall text was understandably in French. Fortunately, there were laminated informational sheets that told stories of the work on view in English. Although this was a very small museum, the information afforded a visitor was lengthy and I whiled away considerable time there.
The story that I found most compelling regarding work in the collection regarded a work by Edouard Manet. This is a shortened version of what I learned about his painting "The Rabbit:"
"The Rabbit" was painted in 1866, which was the same year that Emile Zola, already well known as an author, had to resign from the newspaper L'Evenement for having defended Manet's work. In 1863 Manet's work had caused an uproar at the Salon des Refuses and again at the official Salon in 1865. His work had been violently criticized.
Unlike many artists, Manet did not seek to be in opposition, and seems to have chosen to work on classical still life subjects with compositions similar to famous works. It is believed that he did this in an effort to turn to accepted traditions. "The Rabbit" is an example of such work. In his visits to the Louvre, Chardin's "Hare with a Game Bag and Powder Flask" (see above) surely caught the attention of Manet, who then painted a similar representation.
Jacques Doucet acquired the Manet painting on 4 March 1906. In purchasing this piece Doucet could approach a contemporary artist via a subject which could be part of his collection of 18th century works, which included several works by Chardin. Doucet enjoyed mocking his visitors' preconceived ideas about Manet saying:
"During the period when I delighted in the eighteenth century, I also had my eyes open for newer art. In the middle of the wall covered with Chardins, I had hung the rabbit painted by Manet. My visitors admired the entire wall, never doubting there was an odd man out. And if I wickedly revealed its presence, they fled like rabbits themselves, upset. I still have the Manet, whereas the Chardins have since moved on."
From this story alone, I think that I would have enjoyed knowing Doucet.
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