It was a warm summer morning when we took a quick walk up to the main square, through the almost empty narrow streets of the old Vallauris to a Renaissance building in the French Riviera that houses three small museums showcasing Picasso’s work. Vallauris is a municipality just in between Antibes and Cannes, famous for its artistic pottery and contemporary ceramic art. And this tradition of pottery making is what fascinated Picasso so much that he, following the tragic years of war, settled here for nearly seven years with his companion, Françoise Gilot, and their two children, Claude and Paloma. His presence attracted a circle of artists and writers. Fully participating in the community, the Spanish master, inspired festivals, bullfights and music parades, besides pursuing his political activism.
Just look at the lovely sundrenched peaceful courtyard of the little castle with that tree in the middle. I remember sitting at one of those benches and soaking in the fact that I am in a place where once the genius moved around.
The “La Guerre et la Paix” is a chapel painted by the great Picasso depicting war and peace. The best part is that once inside the chapel you are actually inside the painting of one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century. The circular ceiling surrounds you and creates a magical moment.
Picasso’s Vallauris years at The Château de Vallauris were extremely fertile artistically. He was innovative in his work and engaged in new iconographic experiments by playing with this traditional craftsmanship. In the meantime, he ventured into sculpture, putting together recycled materials.
Pablo was so much inspired by the bright Mediterranean colours, that he visited Vallauris for the annual pottery exhibition in 1946. Impressed by the Modoura works, the local ceramicist there, he met the owners, Suzanne and Georges Ramié. The meeting was successful and he got access to all the tools and resources he needed to express his creativity with ceramics. The collaboration survived for almost 25 years.
For Picasso, working with clay was a relaxing and a respite from paintings. This experience with clay also introduced him with Jacqueline Roque at the Madoura factory. They later married in 1961.
Pablo Picasso created more than 3,500 ceramic works fired in clay. From Vases to pitchers to jugs and plates, his sculptural forms always saw animals, mythological creatures, expressive faces and women figures. Picasso’s ceramic works weren’t really appreciated when he lived. However, later it received a lot of recognition and enthusiasm.
Outside the museum, in the middle of the town’s market square, we saw a bronze sculpture of a man with a sheep in his arms. The bronze, entitled “L’homme au Mouton”, is Picasso’s first sculpture to be installed in a public space. He had warmly gifted it to the town as a mark of gratitude. Vallauris in return gave Picasso the honorary citizen status.
If you love to visit museums that have galleries dedicated to the artwork of the past, especially handicrafts and ceramics and pottery, Musée National Picasso is a must-visit place in your list of places to visit while in France. It gave me a enjoyed it a lot and am sure you will too.