Renoir, Chagall and Monet: Larger than life in a cave in the mountains

Bonjour, art fans. This week I'm blogging at you from the sunny south of France through a very shaky WiFi signal. It's been a lush week, here in the European Capital of Culture 2013. There's been a bit of this:

A lot of this:

And even more of this (i.e. looking at old shit. Or as the more refined among you might call it, 'basking in the remnants of antiquity'):

But yesterday was spectacular. Through windy roads, we made our way into the mountains and arrived at the Carrieres de Lumieres, an indoor quarry venue. Until January, they will be showing 'Monet, Renoir & Chagall: Journeys around the Mediterranean'.

In the second half of the 19th Century, many artists began to migrate south towards the light and away from the hustle bustle of gay Paree. They set up their easels between the Spanish border and the Italian Riviera, and began to paint. The sea became a versatile vehicle for many artistic styles to explore and grow. Calling this an exhibition doesn't feel right, as no artworks are physically present. It's more of a show, and I don't mean that in the American sense.

Let's set the scene. You walk into a massive cave, with unnaturally flattened walls that you later realise act as 14 metre-high projector screens. You try and avoid the incessantly babbling school children. The lights turn off, and it all gets very epic - think of a late 90s planetarium. Euro-dance music blares out and images of science and nature evolving together fill this vast, vast space. You walk around a bit, trying to avoid the school children. Then the music gets more calming (Clair de Lune makes an appearance) and familiar images of the Mediterranean fill the 7,000m squared wall space. In 35 minutes and 3,000 images, you are immersed in the warmth and seas of the artists we all know and love.

I can't import the pictures on this WiFi but take a look at this website to see what it looks like. C'est magnifique!

After some paintings of the surrounding area are exhibited, the Impressionists move into the cave. In this sequence of images, Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir are the focal points of the show. Renoir left Paris in favour of walks along the banks of the River Seine, and beckoned Monet to follow him. Between 1883 and 1888, their visits to the Riviera were a source of inspiration for them both.

What follows is an epic stroll through the nineteenth and twentieth century artistic impressions of the Mediterranean, told through contemporary techniques. To see 14 metre tall Renoirs is a hell of an experience. If you happen to find yourself in the south of France this winter, go, go, go.


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