Friday, September 5, 2014

Christian Lacroix: L'Arlésienne



I first heard of the idea of "L'Arlésienne" long before I ever set foot in Arles.


The basic idea is this...it is a term to describe a woman that you find incredibly attractive...and yet...


...try as you might...you can never have her.


She is a dream that you search after in vain.

A character in Alphonse Daudet's Lettres de mon Moulin, who finally drove her lover to suicide, went on to inspire the opera by Georges Bizet. But I can still see them in modern dress strolling the streets of Arles today with a trail of young men following in their wake, drunk with longing.


Christian Lacroix has long been fascinated both by the women of his hometown and the symbol of what they have come to represent in society. Les Arlésiennes have been a continuing source of inspiration within his design work (he has said that 'le pouf' skirt that launched him to stardom in the 80s is nothing more than the highly codified traditional gown cut above the knee) and so it is little surprise that he has curated an exhibition dedicated to them during the international photography festival Les Rencontres d'Arles for 2014.


For the event, he has assembled works by a variety of artists that portray themes both literal and more tangential, such as with the framed studio coat of the painter Balthus. All are shown in the Chapelle de la Charité, which is both owned by and joined to the Hotel Jules Cesar (yes, recently renovated by Mr. Lacroix himself) and thus rarely open to the public.


It is a baroque jewel. Created in the mid 1600's, it was the chapel for the neighboring convent for an order of Carmelite nuns. The pulpit and main altarpiece were built by a sculptor from Avignon named Péru and a massive Apotheosis of Saint Theresa, painted by Pierre Parrocel in 1718, towers over the space. Perhaps it is because so many churches were gutted and their treasures destroyed during the French Revolution, that the richness of the colors, forms and textures are so utterly pleasing to me in their rareness, just like L'Arlésienne. The lieu and the exhibit are utterly made for each other. The interplay existing between the ecclesiastical and modern art creates a cocoon as fine as thinly spun silk.


Of all of the works presented, I was most fascinated by the ghostly portraits of the Queen of Arles and her court by the English photographer Katerina Jebb. Following a car accident, Ms. Jebb was no longer able to easily hold a camera and starting working first in photocopies then with scans in order to produce her prints. It is a lengthy process and the stillness required in her subjects is transferred within the final result. Her nearly life-size images of these beautiful women represented the most moving essence of L'Arlésienne and her ephemeral, insaisissable quality that I have ever experienced. I couldn't stop staring at them, as if looking for an answer but finally, in the shiny black glass, all I could see was...myself.


To read Christian Lacroix's poetic introduction for the exhibition (and to see several lovely photographs that were featured in it) please click: here ou en français, cliquezici. There is also another excellent article en françaisici.


Christian Lacroix: L'Arlesienne
Chapelle de la Charité, Boulevard des Lices, Arles
Until September 21st
Open everyday from 10am - 7:30pm
Entry: 5€

And to listen to a bit of Georges Bizet's opera L'Arlesienne, please click below:



Wishing you a weekend filled with mystery and delights,
Heather

24 comments:

  1. Perhaps one of my favorite "Lost in Arles" ever. Thank you for this wonderful meander.

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    1. Really? Oh thank you, Joan. This exhibition was one of my favorites in ten years of seeing so many during the Rencontres. I took these photos on the same day after having done my interviews and exploring the Jules Cesar, so I was a bit tired and hoped that the words and photos could do justice, even a little bit, to what I felt.

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  2. Yes, I completely agree with Joan. I am simply lost in Arles with you.
    Imagine.
    et Monsieur Lacroix? perfection in everything he does.

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    1. Marsha, he has done so much artistically for his hometown as well as internationally! I think that the revival of the local Musee Reattu can be attributed to the success of his show there a few years back...

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  3. Spirituality and art. The Arlésienne looks like a spirit living in the monastery and greeting visitors at the door. So interesting, so different, and almost mysterious.

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  4. Oh- I'm heartbroken! This exhibit looks so wonderful, and we'll be arriving in the Arles area a week after it finishes. I'm so glad that I at least got to see it through your eyes and your beautiful photographs!

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    1. Marcy, you should go to the Musee Reattu that I mentioned above. There might be other works in a similar vein that you will enjoy there. And truly, not to worry as there is so very much to see in Arles. Not to be missed: the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh and the Musee Departemental d'Arles Antique!

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  5. It sounds fascinating. So happy you shared it with us.

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    1. Much of the "old juxtaposed with the new" that you and I both like, Loree.
      PS. Still super hot here...and on Malte??

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  6. Gorgeous. This was the beginning of my delights for the weekend. Thank you.

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    1. I hope that you had many, many more to follow G!

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  7. Hello Heather,

    There is so much of interest here.

    First, the whole history of the women of Arles, a maverick and determined band of females if ever there was! So, entirely fitting that they deserve this exhibition in tribute. And, what an intriguing collection shown in such wonderful surroundings, perfectly fitting the occasion.

    The church is a jewel box, so prettily gilded and decorated. A pity that it is not regularly open, but marvellous that you have given us a peek inside.

    Yes, you, dear Heather, are a worthy and modern day successor to these Women Of Arles. Determined of mind, beautiful of face, talented, resourceful, creative........and a touch of naughtiness as needed!

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    1. A touch of naughtiness? Moi? ;) But thank you for your very, very kind words. Alas, I am an American - and one who wears her heart on her sleeve too so I am not nearly mysterious enough to be an Arlesienne...

      Yes, I love this church and it is usually only during the Rencontres that maybe it is open. When the Hotel Jules Cesar first opened in 1928 part of the contract was that they would take care of the chapel but also present musical concerts there. How I hope that the new owner will take up the reins of this idea.

      Wishing you both a wonderful week ahead.

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  8. How marvelous! I especially love the Katerina Jebb photos - elegant yet mysterious and enigmatic. What a wonderful concept and realization.

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    1. Stacey, I think that you would appreciate the elegance inherent in much of her work. And it takes 28 minutes just for one "pose" for the scan - imagine!

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  9. "In love, who flees wins". Is that true? Psychologists have several theories about this topic and literature ( not only French) is full of stories such as Daudet's "L'arlesiènne" . The transparency of the female figure in the photos beautifully represents the Arlesian as an elusive character.
    I would like to be there and visit this magnificent exibition because this is one of my favourite topic in literature. Not to mention the beauty of Bizet composition...
    Interesting and wonderful presentation Heather as usual.

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    1. Thank you so much, Emilia. It is a fascinating subject, I agree. And you would be enchanted by how beautifully the older Arlesiennes carry themselves on festival days. It is not just for the young...

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  10. Seems I jumped over the conclusion when I said in my last comment about C.L. "he is only good in fashion" Shame.
    Didn't really recognize (actually I should) that he is an artist and those are versatile. I also like the ghostly portrait by J.K. JK reminds me a bit of Frida Kahlo who brought out her full talent after her accident .

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    1. Well said, R. And yes, he has done so much for Arles as I mentioned in the comments above. He was also commissioner of the Rencontres festival in 2008 and it was one of the festivals most successful years.

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  11. Really, I would have loved to see that exhibition myself "sur place". It is funny, as with the espadrilles I saw just recently a documentary on ARTE about the traditinal costume of "Les Arlesiennes".

    Those large portaits and the incredible reflections of their frames look gorgeous. Though I don't quite get how Balthuses studio coat got mixed within... I like Balthus or should I rather say Balthasar KLossowski. He and his elder brother Pierrre are very controversionally discussed. ( In the end they found their place on my shelf...(;

    Need to work myself more into Daudets "L'Arlèsienne". So inspiring!

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    1. Silke, it would have been so fun to have seen this together - I know that you would have been as enchanted as I was! And I will have to look up the Arte documentary. They do such amazing pieces. As for Balthus? I will say nothing!
      Gros bisous...

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  12. There is a point where one can be disgusted by both Klossowski Brothers. After quarreling a while with myself between their art and their intention I decided to keep my ambivalence. But as you said let's not discuss it. (:

    I'd rather prefer to start some more research about woman artists. I just recently made the experience again that their meaning for arthistory and as rolemodels keeps being forgotten even by woman. And I thought we would have made a step forward during the nineties et après...
    Gros Bisous!

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  13. I definitely should have studied art history rather than political science (Soviet studies). You are the best teacher I have encountered as I pick up art history studies where my two-year survey course (followed by a lot of museum time) stopped. This exhibition, and its site, look transfixing! Thank you for this encompassing post, Heather. Leslie-just-back-from-5-days-at-the-lake in Oregon

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