By Ellen Turner Hall
The summer exhibition at Collioure Musée d’Art Moderne displays 40 works by Henri Vergé-Sarrat and Rolande Déchorain. Rolande, 18 years his junior, was first Henri’s pupil and then his wife. In love with each other and Collioure, the couple visited the quiet fishing port at various times during the 1930’s.
They stayed at the villa Les Terrasses, the present Hôtel Triton, overlooking the beach in the Faubourg with its customs tower and fishing boats drawn up on the beach amid rows of curving nets drying in the sun. Many of their paintings document the details of daily life as they viewed it from the vantage point of the villa.
Like Matisse and Derain before them, the two artists sometimes painted the same scene – but in distinct styles.
Vergé-Sarrat drew a number of sketches with fine black lines. He often sent his grand-niece postcards with black and white sketches of wherever his travels took him. His view of Port Vendres from the St Elme hill preserves the black-ink outlines of grazing goats surrounding the artist at his easel while the landscape is suggested in swathes of pastel greens and blues.
Déchorain’s canvasses are much more structured. Lines and shadows are well defined and colours are intense. In her hands solid wooden boats float serenely on the liquid bay, while the massive geometry of the Chateau Royal looms over the scene.
The couple’s great niece, Mme. Valia Boulay, has donated to the museum of modern art works painted by Vergé-Sarrat and Déchorain in Collioure. She said she was so happy that they would be together for eternity here in a place they loved.