landscapes and light in the living rooms
January 17, 2013
I like spaces in galleries and museums that feel like living rooms – relaxing into an easy chair, picking up a magazine, book or sheet of notes relating to the exhibits brings a whole new dimension to the experience. In the Fondation Calvet, the 20 C collection is hung in the Victor Martin room with Vlaminck, Soutine, Chabaud well represented together with a quite lovely Bonnard ’Jour d’hiver’. Crisp morning light floods the rooms, bouncing off glass and perspex surfaces to multiply shapes and colours in other dimensions. The only three dimensional form is a Masque Iba from Nigeria with a dramatic headdress or maybe just a skilful coiffure . . .
. . the sculpture gallery with double aspect and marble floor is 18C. It provides an environment for the neo-classical figures with a fragile quality. Touch it or make too loud a noise and it’ll shatter. A graceful staircase carries the visitor to the first floor of this once privately owned mansion in Rue Joseph Vernet in Avignon. The gallery and sumptuously grand 19C salon house an eclectic mix of paintings and sculptures . . . .
. . . views down to the courtyard show the usual, simple and correct contained landscape. Fussiness in planting is not required with such stylish architecture. So the role of the garden is for tree planting to provide shade under which to relax in the hot Provence summer sun and . . . mentioned by Stendhal as ” large trees of the garden” in his Memories of a Tourist.
To the north, the humble arched portal of a side access is dwarfed now by more recent bâtiments.
The foundation contains objects, paintings, tapestries, faïence, bronzes, books, coins and decorative metalwork accumulated by 2 enlightened benefactors, Esprit Calvet and Marcel Puech. Calvet also collected ancient Egyptian artefacts. The solemnity of the aura surrounding the display of these was broken by a party of young school children doing a lot of colouring in on fact sheets. Giggles, some tears and general hubbub of teaching and maintaining order passed around the cased mummies until suddenly, just before midday, the little people made a fast exit leaving a sense of calm to re-establish once again.
Small alabaster urns have their own presence set neatly within recesses as do the monumental vases in the entrance.
The winter sun is low and hardly touches the ground plane of the calade pebbles from the Rhone bed. Laid as a decorative carpet using only stones with brown tones.
How the light invades the Romantic room where the painting that was the talk of the 1850 salon is hung.
It sounded as if the Streets were running
And then – the Streets stood still –
Eclipse – was all we could see at the Window
And Awe – was all we could feel.
By and by – the boldest stole out of his Covert
To see if Time was there –
Nature was in an Opal Apron,
Mixing fresher Air. Emily Dickinson