A very well-spent morning in Provence: a visit to the exhibition and to Picasso’s Château

Yes, it was a wonderful double visit. First, the exhibition Picasso Cézanne at the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence, and then on to the Château de Vauvenargues where Picasso lived from 1959 to 1961 and installed his personal collection and his studio.

Picasso Cézanne brings together a superb collection of works from museums around the world. It seems to me that the show opens up a very interesting debate, because I think it is an excellent example of an exhibition intended to attract what is called ‘the general public’ and perhaps less likely to appeal to the experts. Let me make it quite clear here that I am no expert on Picasso’s work. My field of “expertise” is communication and the Internet. But after two and a half years working at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona, we can perhaps assume that my knowledge of Picasso is a little more extensive than that of the average member of the public, and I think this is explains the two sets of impressions I brought away from my visit to the exhibition Picasso Cézanne.

The first and certainly the most valuable thing for me was being able to enjoy at first hand a number of works by Picasso that I had only seen before in reproduction, together with some rare treasures from private collections that are being shown in public for the first time. I am an enthusiastic supporter of all that technology is doing to make knowledge more readily available, and part of my job is to plan virtual tours of the Museu Picasso collection and specific highlights, but I have to say that nothing comes close to direct observation of the work itself: the intensity of the colours, the texture, the delicacy of line, the thickness of the brushstrokes, the nuances, the size, the depth, the perspective, the volume, and the emotional value—a little reverential or ‘fetishist’, perhaps—of standing in front of the original canvas work by the artist’s hands… these things are incomparable.

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The entrance to the Musée Granet: still no queues early in the morning but plenty of visitors in the rooms.

In this exhibition there are plenty of real gems to admire. And not only Picassos, although most of the 114 works are by him. The 21 Cézanne’s, although you would’ve expected a greater number of works,  are just as much of a treat for the senses. The way the hanging of the pictures creates a dialogue between the two artists is also a unique pleasure. And I should add here, as part of this first set of enthusiastically positive responses, that seeing well-known works from ‘our’ museum such as Harlequin, for example, ceded on loan for the exhibition, next to other Picassos and in dialogue with works by Cézanne, made the experience even richer for me.

As for the second set of impressions, I would say that the basic premise, the tracing of Cézanne’s influence on Picasso, could have been developed a little more fully. I found the layout adopted rather obvious, with the works grouped on the basis of their thematic or figurative content: portraits of smokers, seated women, still-lifes, the artist’s children, still-lifes with skull, etc. As these are all truly great pictures, it’s impossible to feel disappointed, but a bit more conceptual depth would have made the show even better. As I read in a recent article in Museums Journal, the most important thing about a good exhibition, even more than the quality of the works, is having a research project that underpins it: ‘The idea is not something we already know, that we’re trying to disseminate: the core of a good exhibition is a project of investigation’ and ‘Putting research into the public domain is an important function that the exhibition can play [in order to] tell a good story’ (Museums Journal, No. 24, May 2009).

Let me single out for special praise the communication materials accompanying the show, all three very effective: the audio guide (at last, an audio guide that aims to interpret, rather than be merely descriptive or historical!); the abundantly illustrated 40-page booklet, which for many visitors is an excellent alternative to buying the catalogue, and a good leaflet for children with ideas to stimulate their observation skills.

And the morning was not yet over: to round it off, a visit to the impressive château. This was indeed a very special chance to make the most of the exceptional decision to open it to the public for several months. The approach to the château offers a splendid view of Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire. Once inside, it’s a privilege to tour the series of rooms that the family has preserved just as Picasso left them, and to see how surprisingly austere they are. The visit takes in the artist’s studio, with the brushes and pots of paint he used, the dining room with the mandolin that appears in so many of the still-lifes, his bedroom, and the bathroom with its mural of vegetable motifs and a faun. The tour concludes with an audio-visual of Picasso at Vauvenargues, filmed by Jacqueline herself.

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Arriving at the château, with the view seen on the walk from the navette to the main door. Mont Sainte-Victoire is barely visible through the morning haze.

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Rear view of the Château de Vauvenargues. In the background, Mont Sainte-Victoire

I’m not going to reveal any more details of the visit: it would be like giving away the plot of a movie, and I don’t to spoil the sense of discovery that awaits you there (booking essential).

Many thanks, Catherine Hutin, for opening the doors of the château.

Conxa Rodà
Project Manager

0 Comments
  • Mariona Lloret
    July 28, 2009

    Quines visites més interessants, realment despertes ganes d’anar-hi! S’agraeix poder veure no només les obres dels artistes sinó els llocs on van ser concebudes i inspirades. I és que una obra d’art no és només la tela sinó tot un compendi, i això és quelcom que no es té prou present. Gràcies!

  • Estela G.
    August 1, 2009

    gracias por la crónica, !me han entrado ganas de ir! Con las vacaciones ya montadas no sé si tendremos ocasión antes de finales de setiembre. Sería estpuoendo que el Castillo no se cerrase definitivamente sino que abriera en algunos periodos del año en el futuro

  • Mónica
    August 4, 2009

    M\’agrada molt el quadre que va pintar del Carrer de la Riera de Sant Joan… és dels meus preferits.
    i la ruta Carandell per Barcelona és una mica màgica.
    gràcies!!!

  • Jordi P.
    August 4, 2009

    Quina descripcio m\’es maca. M\’apunto la ruta x fer-la quan no faci tanta calor a la ciutat!

  • Eva
    August 5, 2009

    Marta gràcies per aquest escrit tant bonic. Per un moment he volat per un món picassià.

  • Estela G.
    August 1, 2009

    gracias por la crónica, !me han entrado ganas de ir! Con las vacaciones ya montadas no sé si tendremos ocasión antes de finales de setiembre. Sería estpuoendo que el Castillo no se cerrase definitivamente sino que abriera en algunos periodos del año en el futuro.

  • Ana Teresa
    August 20, 2009

    Hola,

    Gracias por la información de primera mano, y bien documentada, que nos proporcionas, yo pienso ir en la primera quincena de septiembre y tengo una pregunta que hacer sobre la visita al castillo de Vauvernagues. He llamado a turismo de Aix y un buzón telefónico ya informa que no se hacen reservas si no que has de comprar las entradas directamente en el hotel de Valori. Les he enviado un correo para hacerme una idea de si hay mucha gente y, por tanto, hay que hacer mucha “cola” y me han contestado que me aconsejan estar desde las 7 de la mañana. ¿Cómo ha sido tu experiencia?, ¿crees que es posible encontrar tiquets o habrá que estar desde la madrugada esperando que abran taquillas? Agradeceré cualquier consejo que me des.

    Muchas gracias. Ana desde Barcelona

  • Conxa
    September 2, 2009

    Gracias por tus comentarios, Ana.
    Con las vacaciones se me había pasado por alto tu pregunta, disculpa. Se hace difícil aconsejar porque puede variar mucho de un día a otro. No sé si a las 7 de la mañana, peor desde luego es aconsejable ir pronto, hay 40 plazas diarias solamente y en principio cerrarán el 27 de setiembre. Suerte, vale la pena!

  • Ana Teresa
    September 12, 2009

    Bueno Conxa ya he ido y he regresado. Hice cola desde las 7 y conseguí entrar en el cupo de visitas al castillo. Merece la pena cualquier madrugón para comprobar la sobriedad en la que vivía y visitar su tumba. También contemplar las vistas desde su castillo y, después, en la exposición conocer la obra que provocó. Lo único negativo: las salas atestadas de la exposición con grupos de turistas y guías que impedían la concentracion que requería semejante despliegue.
    Una experiencia aconsejable. Gracias de nuevo por tus indicaciones.

    Ana

  • Conxa
    September 14, 2009

    Espléndido, Ana. Me alegro de que pudieras hacer la visita! Y totalmente de acuerdo respecto a las salas de la exposición (de ahí el pie de foto q puse), pero es el problema que tenemos los museos con salas de tamaño reducido: encontrar el equilibrio difícil entre dar accesibilidad al máximo número de visitantes (y reducir su tiempo de espera en la cola) y permitir una visita cómoda y relajada, que es muy importante para poder disfrutar de las obras expuestas. Un buen tema para debate.

  • Ana Teresa
    September 27, 2009

    Hola a todos,

    Siguiendo con el tema de este verano, ¿alguien podría informarme si está publicado en España, traducido, el libro de Pepita Dupont “La verite sur Jacqueline et Pablo Picasso”?
    Después de leer el de François Gilot creo que Jacqueline se merece otro punto de vista.
    El problema es que sólo lo encuentro en francés

    Gracias de todos modos

    Ana

  • Biblioteca
    October 8, 2009

    Efectivamente, Ana, sólo existe la edición francesa.

  • Busquets
    August 27, 2009

    HOLA. Si alguien me puede contestar: en 1957, ¿Picasso tuvo “Las Meninas” en su atelier para hacer sus producciones? Soy estudiante.Muchas gracias.

  • Redacción museo
    August 30, 2010

    Hola Busquets,
    Picasso no tuvo Las Meninas en su taller para hacer las producciones.

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