Matilda Marseillaise turns 1 today!

Reading Time: 8 minutes

On 22 September 2017, Matilda Marseillaise was born. In the 12 months since her birth, she has taken you across Australia in research of all things French and francophone.

So in this article, we look back over her first year.

 

At the festival

Matilda Marseillaise has told you which shows you must see at arts festivals in all parts of Australia. She has written about MOFO in Tasmania, the festivals of WOMADelaide, Adelaide Festival and the Adelaide Fringe Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival and Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Matilda has also spoken to you about French festivals happening around the country like the Sunshine Coast French Festival, the Bastille Festival Sydney, the Bastille Festival Melbourne, Le Festival in Brisbane, Bonjour Barossa, the Adelaide French Festival and Shark Bay Rendezvous and So Frenchy So Chic – the festival which celebrates la joie de vivre française.

 

Interviews

Linked to these festivals, Matilda Marseillaise has brought you interviews with musicians, a puppeteer, and theatre directors, among others. She has spoken with people both well-known as well as those not as well-known but equally interesting. She has interviewed francophones from across a diverse range of domains such as Paul Perrin from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Kiya Tabassian, founder and director of the ensemble, Constantinople, Dimitar Gugov from the group Violons Barbares from Canada, Melanie Walters who played “La Flute de Pan” at Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Canadian comedian Al LaFrance who spoke about his show “I think I’m Dead” and  Ronnie Burkett, Canadian puppeteer about his show “The Daisy Theatre” which played at Sydney Festival.

 

There were also an interviews about perfume with Samantha from The Powder Room who led Masterclasses on the subject at the Adelaide French Festival; the singer Abby Dobson from the group Baby et Lulu; Frédérique Cournoyer Lessard, the French aerial circus artist from Club Swizzle; Féfé who played at So Frenchy So Chic 2018. Matilda has also spoken with the principal ballerina from Ballet Preljocacj, a French ballet company, who was in Australia for their version of Snow White which played in Melbourne and in Sydney.

The evil Queen in Snow White – image by Jean Claude Carbonne

 

Eating and drinking

There have also been festivals all about food and drink offerings: Effervescence champagne festival , Moët Grand Day also on the subject; Masterclasses and other events from the Tasting Australia program and Good France, the worldwide French dinner.

At the movies

On a cultural note, she has spoken to you about French and francophone films at the Sydney Film Festival and at the Alliance Française French Film Festival. She has spoken to you about an Australian film about life in France “Life is a very strange thing”, and about a film starring Omar Sy: Two is a Family. She had the pleasure of sharing her experiences of watching the film “Les Triplettes de Belleville” with the sounds reproduced live with Benoît Charest and his Terrible Orchestre de Belleville.

Music

There was a lot more than film soundtrack to entertain our ears over the last 12 months. Matilda was lucky enough to interview the renowned Youssou N’Dour, who came to Australia for a concert at the Sydney Opera House and also for BluesFest. She has listened to and spoken with Australian artists who play French or French inspired music: Mélange à Trois, Baby et Lulu, and the very original Coconut Kids who translated Australian classic pub songs into French for their Adelaide Fringe show “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oui, Oui, Oui”. Well-known Australian singer Gotye presented a tribute to the Belgian Jean-Jacques Perrey at Sydney Festival. Caroline Nin took us on a trip to the Paris Lido with her show “Songs and Stories of the Paris Lido” that she performed at the Adelaide French Festival.

Youssou Ndour sitting on a step looking to camera

 

Francophone musicians from all around the world came for WOMADelaide, with Constantinople, the Violons Barbares and Lura among them.  Malian musicians Bassekou Kouyaté & Ngoni Ba, played to a very enthusiastic crowd at the Sydney Festival.

Violons Barabares perform at WOMADelaide in March 2018. Image by Matilda Marseillaise

 

Matilda got to speak with French rapper Féfé while he was in Australia performing “showcases” to publicise So Frenchy So Chic 2018.

 

For a more theatrical kind of music, there was also Bizet’s opera “The Pearl Fishers” performed by the State Opera of South Australia.

Ballet

Matilda was lucky enough to see Ballet Preljocacj’s production of “Snow White”, which played at the Sydney Opera House and in Melbourne. For a ballet with an even larger difference, crowds were treated to Gratte Ciel’s aerial ballet “Place des Anges” which covered WOMADelaide in tons of white feathers.

 

Let’s run away to the circus

Place des Anges, was a show of quasi ballet, quasi circus which leads nicely into other physical performances such as  “Club Swizzle” and the Cirque de Soleil’s arena spectacular “Toruk – The First Flight” inspired by James Cameron’s film “Avatar”. Matilda got to speak with francophone performers from these shows.

 

A night at the theatre

There was also theatre with Camus’ Caligula performed in English, “The Great War” a Dutch show based on letters from a French soldier in the trenches during the war. The show “The Far Side of the Moon” impressed us with its innovative set and Yves Jacques’ talent performing alone on stage during the entire show. We learned about the story of the very interesting Julie d’Aubigny, in the show “Deviant Women – Julie d’Aubigny”. And we got to see a puppet show that was most definitely not for children with the show “The Daisy Theatre” by Canadian Ronnie Burkett at the Sydney Festival.

Schnitzel from “The Daisy Theatre” ready for bed. Image by Prudence Upton

Schnitzel from “The Daisy Theatre” ready for bed. Image by Prudence Upton

 

Just for laughs!

We laughed at French-speaking or faux French comedians such as Al La France with his show “I think I’m Dead”, Marcel Lucont, and the show Cyranose, from which we spoke to Richard Maritzer, all of which performed at the Adelaide Fringe.

 

John Russell ‘Mrs Russell among the flowers in the garden of Goulphar, Belle-Île’ 1907 oil on canvas 79 x 100 cm Musée d’Orsay, Paris, held by the Musée de Morlaix, bequest of Mme Jouve 1948 “John Russell, Australia’s French impressionist” exhibition.

 

Art

There weren’t just performing arts either. Impressionist art was prominent in exhibitions in Australia. There was the very well received “Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay” which was in Adelaide for 4 months and we got to speak with Paul Perrin, one of the exhibition curators from the Musée d’Orsay the day before the exhibition opened. Currently on in Sydney, another French impressionist art exhibition is on but this time, the paintings are those of an Australian who studied and lived in France: “John Russell: Australia’s French Impressionist”.

Claude Monet: La Pie which was shown in Adelaide for the Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay exhibition

 

We also got to speak with Camille Chaumette and Agnès Mabille, exhibition curators while they were in Australia for the small exhibition of paintings by French photographer Michael Setboun. The photos comprised his “Paris Dark Light” exhibition and stayed in Adelaide for the weekend of the Adelaide French Festival in January.

France. Paris. 4th district. quai d Orleans along the seine river , on saint louis island. in the distance Notre dame Cathedral / Quai d orleans sur l ile saint Louis,

 

Another important exhibition of French works was that of Cartier: The Exhibition, which was on at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra for a few months. Cartier Jewels dazzled the crowds.


HM Queen Elizabeth II
(wearing the Cartier diamond necklace
gift from the Nizam of Hyderabad for her wedding in 1947), 1953
© CAMERA PRESS/Baron

 

Special days

Matilda Marseillaise helped you celebrate the special days such as La Chandeleur and La Galette des Rois as well as the French, Belgian and Swiss National Holidays (sorry Québécois – I will include yours next year!) She also shared ideas for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

 

Let’s drink champagne

And because no celebration is complete without champagne, Matilda let you know about all the events on the subject. She spoke to you about Champagne Fest at the National Wine Centre and of her experiences at its masterclasses. Matilda told you how and where to celebrate the Grand Moët Day in Sydney and Melbourne. She invited you to diners with a champagne focus such as the Mumm and Perrier-Jouet dinner or festivals which celebrate champagne like Effervescence which was on last month.

Champagnes and Sparkling wines enjoyed at the Masterclass at Champagne Fest 2017

 

Wine

And if we have champagne, then we also have wine, and events or even just places dedicated to it. Matilda spoke to you about the event comparing New and Old World wines, a night celebrating rosé called 15 Shades of Rosé and Rosé Royale, a bar dedicated to rose-tinted wine which opened in Sydney last year – and she spoke to its founder. More recently, Matilda encouraged you to try the new French cocktail inspired range from Australian brand Sofi Spritz.

 

The World Cup

And Matilda told you where to catch all of the French or Belgian World Cup Matches – even if they were played in the middle of the night Australian time. And of course, we all know that France won, which gave us yet another reason to celebrate!

 

La cuisine française

French cuisine has also had its moment. Matilda has spoken to you about Good France – the worldwide French dinner and about French restaurants awarded among the top 500 Australian restaurants according to the Australian Financial Review.

 

What have been your favourite moments over the last year? What subjects would you be interested in reading about over the next year?

 

Last few days to see Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée D’Orsay

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The Art Gallery of South Australia’s Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée D’Orsay was a major coup for the Gallery and a wonderful note for the then director Nick Mitzevich to leave on before he moved onto the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. It’s in its last week and must end on Sunday 29 July when the pieces will be returned to the Musée D’Orsay who generously loaned them to the Art Gallery of South Australia.

 

The exhibition looks at impressionism in a different light (pardon the pun). It separates more than 65 works across 6 rooms and across 6 themes, the majority of those being colour.

 

Entering the exhibition behind its mirrored wall, you find yourself in a room full of dark paintings but which despite their darkness manage to express so much. Among them, Edouard Manet’s Clair de Lune sur le port de Boulogne (Moonlight over the Port of Boulogne). In it, we see women dressed in black with white headdresses illuminated by the moonlight awaiting the return of fishing boats. The work is painted with dark shades of black, grey and blues with few patches of white or lightness.

Edouard Manet: Clair de lune sur le port de Boulogne

Another personal favourite in that room is Auguste Renoir’s canvas of Madame Durras. In it, we see Madame Durras behind a spotted veil, enrobed in black. It contains a brilliant velvety black alongside violet-tinged greys and browns juxtaposed with the creamy pinks and white used in Madame Durras’ face and collar. Two paintings of ladies in reclined positions feature side by side in this room: Belgian born Alfred Stevens’ Le Bain (The Bath) and James Tissot’s La Reveuse (The Dreamer). Both are playful with shadow and light.

 

Auguste Renoir: Madame Durras

 

The second room moves into Peinture Claire (which literally translates to “light painting”) but is a reference to the way in which typical way in which light tones are expressed in these nouvelle peinture (“new painting”).  A scene familiar to anyone who has been to Paris is represented in Dutch born Johan Barthold Jongkind’s La Seine et Notre-Dame de Paris (The Seine and Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris). The May Triptych is a set of three impressionist works donated to the Musée d’Orsay, framed together. In it the works of Alfred Sisley’s Saint-Denis Island, Camille Pissarro’s Entrance to the village of Voisins and Claude Monet’s Pleasure Boats. It presents an interesting way of comparing the three impressionist artists’ styles. Edouard Manet’s La Serveuse de bocks (The bar maid) draws attention as it is a marked contrast to the subject matter of the other paintings.

 

Edouard Manet: La serveuse de bocks

 

The third room, and quite possibly my favourite of Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée D’Orsay, is dedicated to white and the way in which it was seen by the impressionists. Claude Monet’s La Pie (The Magpie) dominates the room. A painting which resembles paintings accepted by the Salon (the Paris Art authority at the time) only in its impressive dimensions (89 x 130cm). It was widely criticised at the time of its release due to its lack of subject matter (a small magpie on such a large otherwise bare snowscape), and Monet’s use of blues, pinks and yellows to show the way the snow is illuminated by the light. It is easy to see why this painting so inspired Paul Perrin as a child and into adulthood, who along with Marine Kisiel, curated this exhibition. Another of my favourites of the snowscapes is Alfred Sisley’s La Neige à Louveciennes (Snow at Louveciennes). We see a small figure in the depth of the painting, dressed in browns, greys and black which stands out starkly against the snow-covered path, walls and trees that surround it. Again, Sisley, like Monet in La Pie, uses blues, particularly visible in the trees on the left of the canvas to more accurately depict the light reflecting off the snow. In contrast, Charles,-Francois Daubigny’s simply named La Neige (Snow) shows a bleak snowscape against a grey, orange toned sky.

 

Claude Monet: La Pie

 

The next room of the exhibition moves into greens and blues. In it is Auguste Renoir’s portrait of Claude Monet against the backdrop of green and pink curtain and foliage. It is displayed next to Claude Monet’s Un coin d’appartement (A corner of the apartment). Looking closely at Renoir’s painting alongside, you notice that the same curtains and foliage are present. Renoir has painted Monet as Monet is painting his child in the dark shadows of his apartment. Just as the figure in La Neige à Louveciennes is in the background calling the viewer in, the child in the dark shadows in this painting takes on an almost ghost-like, slightly eerie feel.

 

Auguste Renoir: Claude Monet

 

The fifth room of Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée D’Orsay shows a move from the beginnings of impressionist works to the movement of neo-impressionism – the way in which new impressionists saw colour and light. The paintings in this room look like mosaics from a distance. Rather than long brushstrokes, the neo-impressionists applied small dots and placed colours side by side corresponding with the science of colour. Théo van Rysselberghe’s L’entrée du port de Roscoff (Entrance to the port of Roscoff) features mainly blue and white dots to make up the waters of the port and the building clouds I the background. Small boats in the port are also painted in dots of blue. One the most enticing and playful paintings in this room is Henri-Edmond Cross’ La fuite de nymphes (Flight of the nymphs) is comprised of larger, more square shaped dots with a playful scene of nymphs dancing against the green and blue backdrop. Paul Signac’s Le chateau des papes (Palace of the popes) shows the pink and oranges of the palace against and in the reflections of the green and blue water and sky.

 

Henri-Edmond Cross: La fuite de nymphes (Flight of the nymphs)

 

The final room of the exhibition shows, in sort, the original impressionists’ reaction to and development in the neo-impressionist and post-neo-impressionist world.  Auguste Renoir’s Gabrielle à la rose shows the change in Renoir’s style with a reduced colour palette and a reduction in his mixing of colours. It shows a half-dressed, open bloused woman holding a flower on a table in front of her and one behind her ear. The painting is heavy in reds and pinks and not many other colours are used. Monet’s La cathédrale de Rouen, Le Portail et la tour de Saint-Romain, plein soleil (Roeun Cathedral : the portal and Saint-Romain tower, full sunlight), one of the final works you see before leaving the exhibition shows the cathedral overflowing the canvas and painted in mainly pinky cream tones against a tiny bit of blue sky. It was part of a series of 20 cathedrals exhibited in 1891 and 1892 and dedicated to his wife, Alice. The lines of the cathedral’s structure are defined yet at the same time blurred.

 

Claude Monet: La cathédrale de Rouen, Le Portail et la tour de Saint-Romain, plein soleil (Roeun Cathedral : the portal and Saint-Romain tower, full sunlight)

 

Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée D’Orsay has many of the impressionist pieces we all recognise and love as well as some lesser-known but equally magnificent works. Perhaps one of the most recognised and photographed works in the exhibition is Claude Monet’s Le basin aux nymphéas, harmonie rose (Water lily pond, pink harmony).

Claude Monet: Le basin aux nymphéas, harmonie rose (Water lily pond, pink harmony)

 

The exhibition is being staged in the Elder Wing of the Art Gallery of South Australia, on the entrance level of the gallery as opposed to its basement space usually reserved for exhibitions. The Elder Wing is one of Australia’s few 19th century gallery spaces and is in some ways reminiscent of the light filled interior of the Musée D’Orsay where the paintings are usually housed. The Art Gallery of South Australia even used this as part of the drawcard in putting forward its proposal for an impressionist exhibition to the Musée D’Orsay.

 

The exhibition marks a new way of looking at impressionist paintings and does so in an ambitious and, in my view, successful way. Even if you have been lucky enough to see these paintings in their home in Paris before, this exhibition guarantees a new perspective.

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Tickets: Children $10, students $12, members and concessions $20, adults $25.

 

You only have a few days left to see the works with the Colours of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay exhibition closing on Sunday 29 July at 5pm. Get in quickly!