Monday, September 29, 2014

Les Collettes

Our last day on the Cote d'Azur included a trip to the Renoir Museum in Cagnes-sur-Mer.  Les Collettes was built in 1907 when Pierre-Auguste Renoir purchased the property and where he spent his summers with his wife, children and friends until his death in 1919.
Haut Cagnes in the distance

The house sits on a substantial piece of property littered with olive trees and grassy spaces to enjoy a picnic or just a rest--or to set up an easel and create something beautiful. We arrived with about 45 minutes before the midday break to see the house and as much time as we wished to linger on the grounds--a perfect way to do the visit.  There were very few others "in residence" with us at the time.
Renoir's bather among the lime trees

One of his large "bather" sculptures is in the garden in front of the house.

In addition to the house, there is a ceramics studio where Renoir worked with his friend, sculptor Richard Guino. Guino worked with the clay per Renoir's instructions since Renoir's rheumatoid arthritis was so debilitating late in his life that he couldn't do it himself.
Renoir's painting of the ceramics studio
Ceramics studio

The house is simple in architecture and, I'm sure, comfortable in its time.
The rooms have high ceilings and the largest of those have linen wallpaper--either beautifully restored or beautifully replicated.
Main sitting room with views to the Mediterranean
The scenes from the windows and the photographs taken inside show how true to the original the house has been maintained.

The studio where Renoir worked is the largest room in the house and contains an easel, his wheelchair and little else.
Renoir's main studio
A smaller studio elsewhere in the house has another smaller wheelchair and easel.

There are at least 14 original paintings and several sculptures by Renoir and his friends--many of the paintings done while in residence at Les Collettes.

Claude Renoir

The property is the location of the first film done by his second son, Jean Renoir, whose career in filmmaking was lauded in the industry.  The third son, Claude, model for several of Renoir's work, became a famous ceramicist in his own right.  Renoir's wife and children were often the models for his art.

In the winter, Renoir and his family made their home in Essoyes in the Champagne region of France where his wife grew up.  That home is also open to the public.

The property, the house and the art have been cared for beautifully making the visit most pleasurable.  I once read a review of this museum from someone who complained that there was so little to see and that Renoir's studio contained only an easel and his chair. I cannot for the life of me comprehend the reviewer's evident blindness to the richness of Renoir's home on this enormous property in the tightly-built town of Cagnes and the fine display of his and his friends' art.  If I return again, it'll be 45 minutes before the midday meal and with a picnic lunch. I recommend any of you do the same thing.

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