1940: When sea front became war front

By Ellen Turner Hall

At the Musée moderne of Collioure the latest exhibition, Le front de Mer, Canet, Collioure and Banyuls, 1940 takes an unwavering look at history,  like the great black eyes  which dominate the drawings of Victor Brauner.

When in June  1940  the German army occupied Paris, a number of artists fled to the safety of the free zone in the south.

Some found refuge in Canet and formed a group of surrealists whose tortured visions are the perfect reflection of their shattered  lives. Their collective drawings of women and  flowers were inspired  by André Breton, the father of surrealism. Breton’s portrait by Brauner features his great white and piercing gaze. Espinoza’s Visage intégralement boutonné is  reminiscent of Daliesque distortion – what first appears as a landscape is in fact a profile.

Collioure is pictured as a bucolic paradise in  Raoul Dufy’s tapestry and as a haven of peace in Albert Marquet’s delicate watercolour of the port. Rolande Déchorain, however, suggests something more sombre in use of black shadows which prevail over the people in the street.

In Banyuls, Dina Vierny, Maillol’s muse and model, helped many refugees pass the frontier  from Banyuls  into Spain.  With her distinctive crown of braided hair, she is represented in two portraits by Brauner, one on paper and one on stone.

Dina Vierny

The human drama being played out in Europe troubled the peaceful waters of the Côte Vermeille. The sea front  became a war front where the arms where pen and ink, palette and paint.

collioure bell tower

The exhibition runs from 3 June to 8 October 2023. Please note that  guided tours in English are available Tuesdays and Thursdays  at 1630.

For info: www.museecollioure.com

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