Plein Soleil: Collioure 1945- 1985

By Ellen Turner Hall

The sun is the subject of the summer exhibition at Musée d’art moderne of Collioure, reminding us “the sun never allows you to forget the shade”.

Musée d'Art, Collioure

Plein Soleil tells a dramatic story, touching and violent and hopeful in turns. One of the pivotal actions took place in 1962 in the aftermath of the Algerian war. The local fishing industry was already in decline when the Algerians arrived with state-of-the-art fishing boats. Seeing they could no longer compete, the fisherman of Collioure made of their traditional wooden barques a massive bonfire on the beach and watched their past go up in flames.

Thanks to the work of the museum director Claire Muchir and her team, the transition of life in Collioure from 1945 to 1985 is vividly portrayed on the walls of the museum.

A painting by Sarthou shows the hunched figures of three women, their heads and bodies shrouded in black, repairing fishing nets in the shade of a boat. One feels the violence of the sun, the difficulty of their task, the toll it takes on their lives. It is a portrayal of bleak survival. In marked contrast is Plage de Collioure by Martin Vives in 1970. The boats have disappeared from the beach to be replaced with bikini-clad tourists soaking up the sun, lying at ease, enjoying a carefree day.

Noteworthy is René Perrot’s colourful canvas of sea urchins against a pink background, Jean-Jacques Prolongeau’s porcelain vase decorated with bathers and two self-portraits by Balbino Giner, whose paintings of the Pous family hang in the Templiers. Finally Alice Martinez-Richter’s painting of a white-clad fisherman suggests a Christ-like figure trapped in his own ropes.

les templiers, Collioure

The period of 1945 to 1985 also marks a story of renewal and regeneration. In the euphoria after the war ended in 1945,  Collioure attracted a diverse group of artist, stars and collectors from the 1950s to the 1970’s who gathered at the Café des Templiers where René and Pauline Pous offered a warm welcome. With the end of the local fishing industry, tourism offered a way forward. In 1985 the Museum of Modern Art was inaugurated with an exhibition by René Perrot, Balbino Giner and Camille Descossy.

Today the museum continues its mission, by encouraging and welcoming new artists under the Collioure sun.

Plein Soleil: Collioure 1945-1985 runs from 8 June to 29 September 2024.
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