As I reported here (see post on December 7), the French city of Lille was named this year's "European Capital of Culture." The big events so far this year include a big retrospective of the works of Rubens at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, with other exhibits on Rubens at a handful of other museums in the immediate area. For reviews, see Elisabeth Lebovici, Rubens moussant, March 10, in Libération; Alan Riding, Rubens, the 'Prince of Painters,' Finally Gets His Due in France, March 10, in the New York Times; Today Begins Year-Long Celebration of Rubens, March 10, from artdaily.com; Roger Pierre Turine, Rubens, de Lille à Anvers, March 8, in La Libre Belgique; and Jean Pierrard, Riche et heureux Rubens, March 4, in Le Point. From what I have read, the most important works one would expect to see in a major Rubens exhibit were not loaned and do not appear. For my part, it is more interesting to see a great painter's lesser-known works. Fortunately, the museum has made available a large number of online images of some beautiful paintings I did not know really well. The selection includes Rubenesque landscapes, sometimes combined with a mythological or Biblical scene:
- Paysage avec une vue du mont Palatin [Landscape with view of the Palatine Hill] (Paris, Musée du Louvre, 1609-1610)
- Paysage avec la fuite en Egypte [Landscape with the flight into Egypt] (Paris, Musée du Louvre, around 1613)
- La Charrette embourbée [The stranded wagon] (St. Petersburg, Hermitage, around 1616)
- Le Paysage avec le Naufrage de Saint Paul [Landscape with the shipwreck of St. Paul] (Berlin, Staatliche Museen, around 1625)
- Paysage avec saint Georges [Landscape with St. George] (London, Buckingham Palace, 1629–34)
- Paysage à l'abreuvoir [Landscape with feeding trough] (Paris, Musée du Louvre, around 1635)
- Ixion et Junon [Ixion and Juno] (Paris, Musée du Louvre, around 1615)
- Le Combat des Amazones [Battle of the Amazons] (Munich, Alte Pinakothek, around 1615)
- La Chasse aux lions [The lion hunt] (Munich, Alte Pinakothek, around 1620)
- Chasse au sanglier [Boar hunt] (Marseille, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1615)
- La Continence de Scipion [The virtue of Scipio] (Collection Rudolf August Oetéke, 1618–19)
- La Mort de Sénèque [The death of Seneca] (Munich, Alte Pinakothek, 1612–13/1621)
- Descente de croix [Descent from the cross] (Valenciennes, Musées des Beaux-Arts, between 1614 and 1620)
- Descente de croix [Descent from the cross] (Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts, around 1617)
- Samson cassant les mâchoires du lion [Samson breaking the lion's jaws] (Collection Villar-Mir, Madrid, 1615–16)
From the Department of Pure Fun with the Arts, Annick Rivoire's article (Choeur de robots [Robot chorus], March 6) in Libération describes a new work of music, Armageddon, presented in Lille on March 6 as the first "operetta for robots," by Gérard Hourbette and his contemporary music ensemble, Art Zoyd.
A cosmic creation, Armageddon offers an extremely tech-savvy mixture of contemporary music, artistic robotics, and video and sound captures made in real time. The composers, too, who brought together researchers from Mons Institute of Technology (Belgium) for the program that makes the robots talkative. Stuffed with microchips, Armageddon is first and foremost a Baroque fantasy that draws its material from the Book of Enoch, an apocryphal book contemporary with the Old Testament and a phantasmagoric elaboration on the end of the world. "Two hundred angels have come to earth to fornicate and have begotten giants, and God releases the flood," summarizes Gérard Hourbette, who came up with the idea for the project with his contemporary music ensemble Art Zoyd.Perhaps the piece should be performed with Rubens's La Chute des damnés in the background.
Another painting in the Rubens exhibit is the Venus frigida from Anvers, shown in an article (Rubens ou le malentendu [Rubens, or the misunderstood one], March 12) by Jérôme Coignard in Le Figaro. That review begins with this interesting line: "Delacroix disait qu'il était devenu peintre en contemplant les gouttelettes d'eau ruisselant sur le corps des sirènes de Rubens" (Delacroix used to say that he had become a painter by studying the droplets of water flowing over the bodies of Rubens's sirens).