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Posts tagged ‘Biot’

The Honeymoon Chronicles, Part VII: Biot

Admittedly there wasn’t all that much to see in the tiny little Riviera village of Biot in the South of France. We were drawn to the area by the magnificent retrospective museum of Fernand Léger which was located just down the road, and would otherwise have likely overlooked this little hilltop village as we ventured along the coast to the more prominent neighbours of Cannes and Antibes. We had very little interest in the famous “bubble” glass which is made in the village and is at least partly credited with placing the village on the map (the glass has not quite made it into the kind of style echelons that would make it vaguely chic in a contemporary interior design). Nonetheless, we considered Biot worth a quick stroll.

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And indeed it was. For in common with so many others of its neighbouring Riviera villages, Biot is eye-achingly picturesque with its little coloured shutters, village squares and a cute little church to match. Certainly worth a few camera shots, not least because this village distinguishes itself from the masses with a collection of vibrantly curvaceous papier mâché  sculptures placed throughout the town.

Once again, the artistic spirit of the Riviera was omnipresent, and disarmingly beautiful.

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Art on the Riviera: Musée Fernand Léger

I would be the first to admit that I largely overlooked the work of French artist, Fernand Léger. Although I was aware of his uniquely colourful works characterised by simplified figures painted with shaded tones and outlined in black, I had never really seen enough of them to heed Léger much significance. That grave error was to come to an abrupt end on my honeymoon when I attended the Musée Nacional Fernand Léger in the little town of Biot on the French Riviera. Seeing this artist’s magnificent work en masse, grouped together in a chronological retrospective of his life’s work, left me feeling uplifted and awashed by colour, and deeply, deeply satisfied by the sleek finish and positive subject matter depicted in his work.

Enjoying the Biot museum

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Born in 1881 in Normandy, Léger’s early work was characterised by a personal form of cubism, and human forms were reduced and simplified; curling curvaceous hair became what looked like undulating metal sheets, and his paintings drew clear influence from the Futurist movement. Gradually losing people from his works, Léger’s paintings became even more abstractive before an about turn saw the reintroduction of the figure alongside often floating disorientated objects such as keys and blobs of sky and clouds.

Early cubist work leading back into figurative depictions

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From this point onwards, Léger adopted a gradually more figurative, populist style as he sought to use art as a means of attracting not just the cultured set, but the whole of society into galleries, attracted by paintings depicting every day life in bright, happy colours, as well as working life, for example in his masterfully conceived works featuring labourers on scaffolding.

Later works

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Beyond the galleries, the Biot museum offers an immersive grand-scale opportunity to discover some of the artist’s incredible sculptural, ceramic and mosaic works as demonstrated by the immense mosaics which envelop the building, constructed shortly after the artist’s death by his wife and business partner. In a garden laden with pine trees, Léger’s candy coloured sculptures are dazzling in the Riviera sunshine, while the mosaics explode in the landscape with all of the force deserved by this brilliant 20th century artist.

The museum’s exterior and its gardens

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With his boldly simplified treatment of modern subject matter, Léger is rightfully regarded as a forerunner of pop art, and for me an absolute inspiration. I will never underestimate the work of Fernand Léger again.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.