FIFA 2015: Looking at Gustave Courbet’s The Painter’s Studio as a puzzle and a history lesson

Caricature of painter Gustave Courbet from the documentary film Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre
Caricature of painter Gustave Courbet from the documentary film Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre

 

French painter Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) was admired by some and mocked by others. He was self taught, which earned him the scorn of academicians. He hobnobbed with the rich and powerful though he sided with workers and disadvantaged.

The 26 minute film takes a quick look at Courbet’s life and works before turning to his large and crowded work with the long name – The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life.

The Painter's Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, by Gustave Courbet.
The Painter’s Studio: A Real Allegory of a Seven Year Phase in my Artistic and Moral Life, by Gustave Courbet.

Courbet created it for a salon at the 1855 Paris World Fair (or Exposition Universelle des produits de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et des Beaux-Arts de Paris 1855 to give its full name). The jury refused to accept this painting, though eleven of his other works were shown. (These days, the painting hangs in the Musée d’Orsay.)

In examining the many possible reasons for this refusal, the filmmakers tell us about the many styles that appear in the painting – portraits, still life, history painting – and the people in it, who include George Sand, Charles Baudelaire, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, and the Emperor Napoleon III himself. He had been elected president of France but later staged a coup d’etat and declared himself emperor. In the painting he is portrayed as a hunter wearing tall leather boots. Censorship was so strong at this time that the mere mention of “boots” could result in a prison sentence.

This film is filled with a wealth of detail and historical information.

Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre will be shown as part of a double bill with Beatus: The Spanish Apocalypse, which is 90 minutes long, on Friday, March 27, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. at the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal – Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W.

Les Petits Secrets Des Grands Tableaux – Courbet, L’atelier Du Peintre
France / 2014 / Color / 26 Min / French
Realisation: Clément Cogitore
Script: Thomas Cheysson, Elisabeth Couturier
Editing: Erwann Chabot, Julien Ngo Trong
Music: Roque Rivas
Narration: Clémentine Célarié
Producer(s): Sophie Goupil, Daniel Khamdamov
Production: Les Poissons Volants, ARTE France, Les petits secrets des grands tableaux
Distribution: ARTE France

The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information.

FIFA 2015 Review: Ian Rankin – My Edinburgh

Crime novelist Ian Rankin looks at the city of Edinburgh.
Crime novelist Ian Rankin looks at the city of Edinburgh.

Popular Scottish crime novelist Ian Rankin shares stories about his early days, (he wrote 16 books before he had a bestseller – such persistence!) talks about his creation police inspector John Rebus and takes us on a tour of “hidden Edinburgh” where there are “always new crime scenes to be discovered.” He says Edinburgh has all of the amenities of a large city while being conveniently compact. And it’s really the main character of his books, more than Rebus himself.

Tiny wooden dolls inisde tiny wooden coffins might be connected to notorious Edinburgh grave robbers and murderers Burke and Hare.
Tiny wooden dolls inisde tiny wooden coffins might be connected to notorious Edinburgh grave robbers and murderers Burke and Hare.

This tour includes a visit to an underground street, several graveyards, the Scottish Parliament, tales of cannibalism and bodysnatchers, the murderers Burke and Hare, the continuing mystery of 17 tiny coffins that date back to the 1830s, and the story of Deacon Brodie, the Edinburgh city councillor and cabinet-maker who was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Stevenson set his story in London, though.) Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conon Doyle was from Edinburgh, too, and he also set most of his stories in London.

Rankin reveals that in the first few Rebus books he set events in unnamed, fictional streets. Later he decided he might as well use real places, so he had Rebus working in a real police station, drinking in real pubs and living in the neighbourhood Rankin had lived in while attending university.

 

"That was my bedroom window," says writer Ian Rankin, pointing at the apartment he lived in during his student days. He decided that his character, police inspector John Rebus, would live across the street.
“That was my bedroom window,” says writer Ian Rankin, pointing at the apartment he lived in during his student days. He decided that his character, police inspector John Rebus, would live across the street.

Actor and historian Colin Brown runs Rebustours.com, which gives tourists a chance to visit the places mentioned in Rankin’s books. He mugs a bit while reading passages from the books. Rankin himself tags along with Brown for a while. Did the tourists even recognize him? I wasn’t certain. But I was sold on the attractions of Ediburgh. I’d be willing to check it out!
Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 6:30 p.m., at Grande Bibliothèque de BAnQ – Auditorium, 475 de Maisonneuve Blvd E.

Ian Rankin – My Edinburgh, Austria / 2013 / Color / 44 Min / English

Realisation: Günter Schilhan
Script: Günter Schilhan
Cinematography: Erhard Seidl
Sound: Albrecht Klinger
Editing: Günter Schilhan, Raimund Sivetz
Music: Franz Sommer
Narration: August Schmölzer, Stefan Suske, Günter Schilhan
Participation(s): Ian Rankin
Producer(s): Rosemarie Prasek
Production: ORF, 3sat
Distribution: 3sat

http://www.artfifa.com/en
The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site http://www.artfifa.com for more information.

FIFA 2015 Review: The Man Who Saved the Louvre

This entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris was named after Jacques Jaujard, the man who saved the museum's art from destruction during World War II.
This entrance to the Louvre Museum in Paris was named after Jacques Jaujard, the man who saved the museum’s art from destruction during World War II.

The Man Who Saved the Louvre is the intriguing story of Jacques Jaujard. In the late 1930s, with war in Europe looking more and more likely, Jaujard, director of the French National Museums, drew up an elaborate evacuation plan, to keep the country’s cultural heritage safe from bombs and Nazi art collectors, from Hitler on down. This was his own idea, no one asked him to do it.

Near the end of August 1939, 4,000 works of art were packed into crates, ready to be sent to châteaux in the countryside. Art from the Louvre included the Mona Lisa and the sculptures the Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo.

During World War II the art treasures of the Louvre were dispersed to a number of chateaux for safekeeping.
During World War II the art treasures of the Louvre were dispersed to a number of chateaux for safekeeping.

While many paintings were removed from their frames and rolled up, others were too delicate for that treatment. Géricault’s huge Raft of the Medusa was loaded onto an open truck, protected only by a tarpaulin. The painting was so large (five metres high, seven metres wide) that it knocked down power lines.

Museum staff members looked after the art works in their temporary homes throughout the war. They protected them from heat, cold and humidity, practiced fire drills every day, and wrote LOUVRE in big letters on the lawns of the châteaux to alert any Allied bombers to the treasures. Some items were moved as many as five times before the war was over.

Louvre warning
Warnings were placed on the ground to alert Allied bombers to the presence of art treasures.

 

Intrigue and a love interest is provided by one of Jaujard’s contacts in the French Resistance. The agent with the codename “Mozart,” turns out to be a glamourous former actress.

The film uses photos, archival footage, Jaujard’s notebooks and testimony from witnesses to tell the story. An animated version of Jaujard makes the occasional appearance as well.

The Man Who Saved the Louvre is presented in a more engaging way than another FIFA selection about art during World War II, the Austrian film Hitler’s Mountain Of Stolen Art. That film, which will also be shown on Wednesday, March 25 (at 6:30 p.m.) looks at a treasure trove of stolen art that was stashed in a salt mine in Altaussee, Austria.

Once he realized that he was losing the war, Hitler gave orders to blow up the mine and the art with it. His order was not carried out, and the filmmakers look at a number of candidates in an effort to figure out try to find out who saved the art. The film just seems to go around in circles and has far too many interviews where the translation is spoken and not given via subtitles.

The Man Who Saved the Louvre

France / 2014 / Color, B & W / 60 min / English with French subtitles, part of a double bill with:

Grandeur des petits musées
France / 2014 / Color / 47 min, / in French

Wednesday, March 25, 2015, at 4 p.m., at the Maxwell Cummings Auditorium, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1379 Sherbrooke St. W.

The Festival International du Film sur l’Art, known as FIFA, runs until Sunday, March 29, 2015. Visit the web site www.artfifa.com for more information.