Nearly four months of lockdown was proving to be an agony for art enthusiasts as all the museums, just like cafés, restaurants and parks, were closed to the public. While the majority of them still appear undecided, Atelier des Lumières has proven to be the first to reopen its doors — though certain conditions such as advance reservations, keeping wide distances, washing and rewashing hands with disinfectant liquid provided by the museum and wearing masks, are being applied strictly.
Once inside, you literally plunge yourself into the sun-washed southern France along the Mediterranean Sea with its sparkling golden, pink, violet flowers, its green pastures and its ever present clear, blue sky painted by Vincent van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Chagall and many other geniuses of the late 19th and early 20th century art movements, ranging from Impressionism to Pointillism to Fauvism.
Van Gogh remains an important part of this revolution. Born in Holland in 1853 he worked practically all his life in France and created some 2,000 works, committing suicide in 1890 at the early age of 37 years. He painted some of his most legendary canvases such as ‘The Sunflowers’ (1888), ‘Starry Night’ (1889) and ‘Bedroom in Arles’ (1889) during his stay in southern France.
Going to the Atelier is an experience very different from watching original paintings hung on the walls of normal museums. With the help of modern image projection techniques on huge screens, here you are offered the thrills of travelling through France a century and half back. What you pass through are the countryside landscapes, hills and lakes that appear alive and breathing as you keep on advancing.
By the time your artistic voyage is over, you end up not just viewing but literally going into, then coming out of, hundreds of these creations by these unforgettable geniuses. Strangely enough, what keeps you in company through this dazzling journey is not a commentary by an art expert but the magic of continued, soft classical music that concentrates more on your emotions than on your knowhow of the techniques of Renoir, Pissarro, Matisse, Signac, Derain, Vlaminck, Dufy and so many others, to add only a few more names.
Atelier des Lumières in Paris is first to reopen its magical doors to art enthusiasts in the corona-affected environment
The Mediterranean Sea and the bright sunshine of southern France had begun attracting a large number of Parisian artists of the late 19th century who had left their homes in Paris and other cloudy and rainy northern French cities to get together along the beaches of Collioure, St Tropez and Nice, in order to elaborate a new concept of light and colour while working on their canvases.
When the images of these chefs d’oeuvres are projected on the walls and huge columns of the museum with music playing, the feeling is so strong that one often imagines oneself actually taking a dip into the sea shown in paintings such as ‘The Antibes’ by Claude Monet (1888), ‘Estague’ by Auguste Renoir (1882), ‘The Angels’ Bay’ by Raoul Dufy or ‘Saint Tropez’ by Paul Signac (1899).
The final part of the show is devoted to a relatively modern French painter named Yves Klein who proved to be an important figure in the post-War art as a leading member of the Nouveau Realism (New Realism) movement, dying in 1962 at the age of only 34. He created huge canvases dominated by blue colour — hence the entire section dedicated to Yves Klein is called ‘The Infinite Bleu.’
If we are, let us hope so, definitively exonerated by the Covid-19 disaster, the Atelier des Lumières exhibition is supposed to last until January 3, 2021.
“Voyage by the Mediterranean” is being displayed at Atelier des Lumières in Paris from February 28, 2020 to January 3, 2021 The writer is an art critic based in Paris. ZafMasud@gmail.com
Published in Dawn, EOS, July 12th, 2020