Vermeer to Van Gogh, The Dutch Masters in Southern France.
2023 was the year we discovered “Vermeer to Van Gogh, The Dutch Masters at Carrières de Lumières.”
Every year we make a pilgrimage to Les Baux to witness a new audio-visual production at the Carrières de Lumières made by outstanding technicians at the innovative company, Culturespaces. No matter how many times we visit (the crew often makes several trips in the same year) we are constantly surprised by the creative compositions and combinations that comprise the animated spectacle; each one unique and awe-inspiring.
We never tire of seeing masterworks and iconic paintings gliding gracefully across the floors and quarry walls, choreographed to an excellent playlist of music ranging from classical to contemporary, because at their core they are all fine art. Much the same way that we get excited to revisit Sargent’s Lady Agnew in the Scottish National Gallery or Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia in Florence, we are equally captivated by the art in the cool, grand underground spaces that were once an extensive limestone quarry at Les Baux de Provence.
Right: Girl With a Pearl Earring by Vermeer
Stepping Inside the Artwork
This year we were greeted with a new show titled; Vermeer to Van Gogh, The Dutch Masters and we were not disappointed. Included in the list of stellar painters from Holland are Vermeer, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. Imagine being transported inside these paintings when the projected masterpieces are monumental in size and you are able to observe the art pieces in ways you never imagined.
Above and Below Left: Images of the show from inside the Limestone Quarry, works by Rembrandt Van Rijn
From North light to torchlight and the Light of the Mediterranian
The show includes a breathtaking display of the intimate indoor spaces that Vermeer painted, illuminated with gentle northern light streaming through a window revealing his subject while other parts of the scene remain mysteriously obscured.
After being mesmerized by The Girl With the Pearl Earring flooding the walls, you are stopped in your tracks by Rembrandt’s The Night Watch on a grand scale where you can examine his exquisite brushwork and his play of shadow and light.
It is an immersive experience that makes you feel like you are entering the painting and becoming part of the art. As the presentation progresses the scenes take us beyond the towns and we find ourselves surrounded by outdoor scenes landscapes, seascapes and outdoor scenes.
Eventually, we view a series of bright colors and thick, textured paint as they come to life and place us in the familiar scenes from Vincent van Gogh in the South of France.
Van Gogh Starry Night
The Carrières des Lumières describes the show as one that allows us to:
“Explore the reality of daily life, following in the footsteps of the great masters who represented the ordinary in an extraordinary way.
Painting light and atmosphere is the main theme of the exhibition itinerary.”
Images of works by Dutch Masters inside the limestone quarry in Southern France
Beyond the Dutch Masters
Culturespaces, the team responsible for designing the show, Vermeer to Van Gogh, The Dutch Masters, also incorporated the works of some artists who are not as well known outside of Holland. These artists included Abraham Blommaert, Hendrick Avercamp, Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom and Jan Steen. Each one painted different and distinct subjects.
Abraham Blommaert worked in a style that is reminiscent of the bold and dramatic works by Carvaggio. He was part of the group known as the Utrecht Caravaggisti.
Hendrick Avercamp depicted everyday life, much like Vermeer. However, his subjects were placed outdoors and he was known for paintings set during winter.
Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom is known for Dutch marine art and is considered the founder of the genre.
While Jan Steen depicted the interiors of seventeenth century Holland his paintings differ from Vermeer and highlight the revelry and very colorful social life of his time.
Right: Hendrick Cornelisz, detail of “Arrival of a Dutch Three master at Schloss Kronberg”
Left: Tableau 1, 1921, Piet Mondrian
Masters of the Past to Mondrian’s Modernity
As is typical of the Carrières de Lumières, the dramatic pageantry of the Dutch Masters is followed by a short program of Piet Mondrian’s colorful landscapes and geometric abstractions in his primary colored palette. It was interesting to see the children in the audience hopping along moving paths of animated squares that had flowed down the walls from Mondrian’s geometric compositions and flooded the immense quarry floor. A truly immersive experience for all ages.
Whether we are in Scotland, Italy or Southern France, our itineraries have the same goals; exploring life, following in the footsteps of masters, capturing the light, atmosphere and sense of place. It’s no surprise that we found inspiration and wonder watching this show of masterpieces.
Blogger: Lauren Carlo
Lauren Carlo is an artist and also the Marketing Director of Workshops In France. She lives in Baltimore, MD, and enjoys traveling, dancing, and rock climbing. You can learn more about her painting on her website or follow her on Instagram: @lauren.carloart.
Their work, like other contemporaries around Europe, rejected traditional art styles and subjects and thrust the art scene into modernism. Like their counterparts on the Continent, these artists were ready to try something fresh and new when it came to painting.
Did you know Alizarin, one of the most common and beloved colors in a painter’s kit, was originally a cheaper replica of another color? Until recently artist’s didn’t know that the beautiful reds they were using were fugitive and would fade over time! Many famous works have suffered the same fate of fading colors.
This year at Les Carrières des Lumières, the famous underground quarry is once again transformed into a theater of mind-blowing proportions through the wizardry of technology, showing projected masterworks from Venice as well as the work of Yves Klein in Infinite Blue onto its limestone walls.