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16.12.03

La Tour and Chagall

Georges de La Tour, Saint Jean-Baptiste dans le désertAn article (Quand Georges de La Tour revient au pays [When Georges de La Tour comes back home], December 15) by Marie-Douce Albert in Le Figaro informed me of two new museums opening in France. The first is named after a minor painter whose works I admire and mention for about 5 minutes in my art history classes, Georges de La Tour. The Musée départemental Georges de la Tour in Vic-sur-Seille (Moselle) was created because of one extraordinary painting by La Tour:

At the end of 1993, an authentic La Tour was uncovered between old saucepans and out-of-use household items during an estate sale in a Drouot annex. There, the large painting in which some had seen only the dark image of a youth left to seed and his sheep was almost let go for a few bucks. But some eyes, especially those of Pierre Rosenberg, director of the Louvre, were sharper. From one extreme to the other, this oil canvas, formely attributed to Georges de La Tour and known under the title of Saint John the Baptist in the Desert, was ceded by the State one year later in favor of the Moselle General Council.
Although La Tour was born in the Moselle region, in the town of Vic-sur-Seille, none of the approximately 40 paintings safely attributed to him were in public collections there. With its newly discovered La Tour painting, a museum was established in Vic-sur-Seille, which eventually acquired local collections of archeological items, as well as the donation of 82 17th- to 20th-century paintings from two anonymous collectors. The collection has been housed in a renovated 18th-century house and opened last June. See the write-up on the museum by Didier Rykner from La Tribune de l'Art from June 23.

The museum's painting is the sort of gloomy, tenebrist work for which La Tour is usually most admired, in the style often identified as an imitation of Caravaggio (which you can also see in these images of some of his religious paintings). However, he deserves to be appreciated on his own, I think, as he was by Jacques-Edouard Berger, whose observations on La Tour have been condensed into this online exhibit, An Itinerary in Light and Shadow. In spite of all the pop-up advertisements, there are also good images of almost all of the paintings at Olga's Gallery.

The second part of the article (L'histoire de Sarrebourg et de Chagall) presents the new Musée du Pays de Sarrebourg, which features a collection of local antiquities and Niderviller faïences and porcelain.
The museum also evokes the grand art history that Sarrebourg lived through with Marc Chagall. In 1976, the artist created his largest stained-glass window for this town. Even today, La Paix [Peace] illuminates the nearby old Chapel of the Cordeliers. La Paix is also the title of the immense tapestry on exhibit in the main hall of the new museum, a work created for the United Nations in New York from the prepartory sketch for the window.

For the time being, in its Chagall room, the museum is showing especially two large paintings, La Danse and The Blue Circus, on loan from the Centre Georges-Pompidou certainly until the end of next summer. The Moselle museum should nevertheless undertake a partnership with the Parisian museum to enjoy a rolling exchange of works. Thus Chagall would be permanently present a few footsteps away from his famous window.
Take a look at Chagall's immense mosaic sculpture Four Seasons (1974), which is still on display in the First National Plaza (Dearborn and Monroe Streets) in Chicago; the windows he did for the Hadassah University Hospital in Israel; and the Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice.

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