Vallauris: ceramic art and the spirit of Picasso
Musée National Picasso "La Guerre et la paix"
Photos by Inexhibit, additional photos: see captions for credits
The atmosphere is that of a typical southern-France town: people sipping a cafe on bar terraces, freshly-baked bread and kebab smells mixing with those of the fruit exposed on little stalls under the large sycamores of a tiny market square. This is Vallauris, a municipality midway between Antibes and Cannes, renowned for its artistic pottery and for its Biennale of contemporary ceramic art. At a closer look, a subtle presence emerges in the middle of the town’s market square: a bronze sculpture of a man with a sheep in his arms. The bronze, entitled “L’homme au Mouton”, was realized by Pablo Picasso in 1943 and is located on Place Paul Isnard since 1950. Surrounded by the food market stands and with a small “tower” of empty fruit-crates leaning against it, it looks like an old pal that has always stood here and that could not be anywhere else.
“L’homme au Mouton” is here because Picasso lived and worked in southern France from the 1940s to 1973, moving from Antibes to Vallauris, where he stayed from 1948 to 1955, to Cannes, and finally to Mougins.
In Vallauris, the Chateau – a former priority dating back to the 12th century – now houses the Magnelli / Ceramic Art Museum and the Picasso National Museum with Picasso’s large painting “War and Peace”. The complex provides a unique occasion to see ceramic and graphic works by the Spanish master, along with an interesting photographic collection depicting his stay in the town.
In the vaulted rooms at the ground floor of the Castle, large glass showcases accommodate various ceramic works by Picasso, who in Vallauris learned to make ceramics at the atelier Madoura. He applied his passion for experimentation also to this, usually quite conservative, means of art.
Picasso developed many personal engobe “recipes”, fascinated by the chromatic effects achievable with this technique. Picasso’s ceramics – plates, vases, zoomorphic and anthropomorphic jugs – are unique pieces of art, expressing a great vitality and a sort of childish glee.
In a room adjacent to the museum of ceramics, the photographs by André Villers represent Picasso, either as a public personage attending public events and feasts or working alone in his studio, as a man fully integrated with the community of Vallauris, which made him an honorary citizen in 1950.
Above: Creation of “La guerre e la paix”, Vallauris, 1953, photo by André Villers.
Courtesy of Galerie Flak.
The rooms on the first floor of the Castle currently house an exhibition on the French designer Olivier Gagnére, organized in collaboration with the Maeght Gallery in Paris.
About 200 pieces, including vases, light fixtures and pieces of furniture, illustrate the thirty-year-long career of the designer, as well as his collaboration with the pottery-makers of Vallauris.
“La Guerre et la Paix”, which Picasso began to paint in 1952, was installed in 1954 in the same Romanesque chapel of the Vallauris Castle where, until few years before, “L’homme au mouton” had been housed before being relocated into the market square nearby.
The cycle, painted on 18 hardboard panels screwed to a timber frame support, does not represent a precise historical event but is an allegory of war and peace.
Above: Musée National Picasso “La Guerre et la Paix” , Vallauris.
Pablo Picasso, “La Guerre et la paix”, photo by Francoise Thurel, courtesy Monument Historiques / Paca.
Thanks to Musée Magnelli / Musée de la Ceramique, Vallauris.
The Château de Vallauris – musée Picasso in the French Riviera houses three small museums and includes a chapel decorated by Picasso.