Réattu Museum, France 2015

On our visit to Arles, we ran across the Réattu Museum. We had seen they had some unusual Picasso material, so we popped in. The museum is housed in a late 15th century priory, and is as much an exhibition as the actual artwork.

But the best part was the discovery of two new artists, neither of whom I’d heard of, and a bunch of very cool Picasso stuff from 1971.

First, Jacques Réattu (1760-1833), the illegitimate son of the painter Guillaume de Barrême de Châteaufort and Catherine Raspal, sister of the Arles-born painter Antoine Raspal – Antoine gave him his first lessons in painting. Seriously, have any of you heard of this guy? He was a classical painter, studied in Italy, won the grand prix du Rome, etc. But the best part of all this? His daughter inherited everything, sketches, studies, paintings, and the building, and you can see his entire career in front of you.

Including an unfinished painting that demonstrates how he worked. I’d never given this much thought. I know how I work, and I come at stuff from different directions (fabric combinations, a phrase that sparks an idea, an exhibition challenge), but my process is basically the same each time.

It starts with a sketch.

So, Réattu has his sketches, studies of arms and legs, small paintings that contributed later to larger works, and lastly the unfinished work, with a huge chunk of it sketched in, but never completed.

Maybe it’s a librarian thing, like finding an unknown manuscript of some famous work, but I found that painting to be so intriguing.

The other two neat bits in the museum were sculptures by a Byelorusse named Ossip Zadkine, which were one of metal and one of wood, that I was strangely drawn to. His museum is in Paris, where he lived, which has 300 sculptures of his!

And the Picasso bits. Throw “Picasso 1971” into your favorite browser, and you’ll see this wonderful group of portraits. Charming faces, eyes not always level, but he does the most delightful beards that make one just want to reach out to them. The colors were ochres and blues mostly, and only one was really bizarre. They were in two adjoining rooms, a very cozy grouping that made one feel right at home with friendly neighbors.

Of course, I bought postcards, but when I get back, I’d like to find books of all these people. Do check them out!

La Mort d'Alcibiade by Jacques Réattu

La Mort d’Alcibiade by Jacques Réattu