So, on a fine February morning, we set off from her village of Bar sur Loup, in the mountains above Nice, towards the village of St. Paul de Vence. This is a fortified medieval village surrounded by a high wall, and its little streets probably contain more artists per metre than anywhere I have been.
Overlooking the village, set high on a hill, is the amazing Maeght Foundation.
As we climbed the hill, the building and gardens came into view, and gave us quite a shock, mainly because of the very unusual architecture.
The Architect of the building, opened in 1964, is Josep Lluis Sert. He was a Catalonian architect, and great friend of Miro, and also designed his studio. Aimee and Marguerite Maeght asked him to create a building and gardens to exhibit their modern “living” art. They counted among their personal friends artists like Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Georges Braque, Alexander Calder, Fernand Leger and Eduardo Chillida. Apparently, many of these artists collaborated with Sert and the Maeghts so that they could intigrate their works of art “in situ” in the building and gardens. This is what struck us as we entered the gardens, that all the art work seems to be so comfortably placed in just the right position. The Indoors and Outdoors seemed to blend seamlessly together as we made our way around.
Miro’s Labyrinth, Chagall’s mosaics, Braque’s pool and his stained glass windows, and my favourite, Giacometti’s courtyard. Being able to interact with his work, no “don’t touch” signs, no crowds or queues, just peace and quiet, beautiful Mediterranean light and a feeling of amazement to be a part of the whole experience that the Maeght’s had planned.
It seemed light years away from the Gallery they had owned in Paris in the 1960’s, where all these contemporary artists originally gathered together, shared experiences and exhibited their work together. Displaying their work in the Cote D’Azure, in an area specifically designed for them must have seemed like a dream come true.
We explored the whole of the building and gardens, often sitting (plenty of seats dotted about) and just taking it in, often going back to things again for another look, and then we found our way up onto the very unusual roof of the building, where we could take in the views of the gardens, and also far beyond to the French countryside that so inspired all the artists who gathered in this area.
The Maeghts do also exhibit works by modern contemporary living artists, and they also send their works around the world. This means that sometimes when you visit, some work may be on loan, and there may be exhibits from artists who are unfamiliar to you.
I know how lucky I am to have a lovely daughter living in the south of France, and I have told you before of my trips to Renoir’s home, at Cagnes sur Mer, Bonnards House at Le Cannet, Picasso’s house, and the museum of modern art at Mougins. This area is so evocative and filled with light that it is no wonder that so many artists have ended up here.
I wonder where I will go next?
Further information on Contemporary Artists, and how to get there, online at Maeght Foundation St.Paul de Vence, Cote D’Azur.