Over the following couple of days we ventured down to the coast – only a half hour drive – to the towns of Collioure, Port Vendre, Banyuls-sur-Mer and Cerbere. I’m glad I’d got my swim in because there was a sudden blast of cold air and grey skies which turned our days to winter again.
Collioure is a stunning little town – inundated with people that day so it would be hell-on-a-stick in peak summer. Its buildings are brightly coloured and even on this cold and grey day it still looked picturesque. It makes sense that Fauvism (the critics said they painted like wild beasts in cages!) is credited with being born here. Matisse and Derain, good friends, painted together here in what must have felt like an explosion of creative energy producing 242 oils and watercolours.
“For us, Fauvism was a trial by fire,… colours became sticks of dynamite that discharged light.”
Surprisingly to me, Derain never returned to Collioure, but Matisse did several times, continuing to draw from its inspiration in his work. Both artists moved on from Fauvism, but this energetic exploration of colour that revolutionised modern art.
Prints of a number of their works are located at various sites in the town, particularly along the seawalk and again it was really valuable being able to be in the place, even on a cold and fairly bleak day, and note the colours in the landscape and see how these artists had internalised them to find this new expression.
Apparently Collioure has a really good modern art museum. Eventually we tracked it down after a couple of wrong starts, only to find that it was still closed for another couple of days when summer would start! Another one of the next time list!
Port Vendre wasn’t so touristy – obviously still very much a working Port. However, tucked away under a building was a gallery of prints of pictures of Port Vendre and up in the mountains behind Ceret by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his fellow artist and wife, Margaret Macdonald. Both from Scotland, they came to live in the town during the 1800’s for several years. The gallery was more a tribute to them that an exhibition of originals. Two lovely elderly ladies were running it with the help of their intrepid silky terrier, Carlos.
We all had a very animated Franglais conversation during which we learnt that one of them had been to Alice Springs and had met the writer Neville Shute. We’re not 100% sure of just how well she said she got to know him, but it seemed very well! Oooh-la-la!
Banyuls-sur-Mer we’re sure would’ve been lovely on a fine day, but, just like the border town of Cerbere, it was closed up and dreary looking due to the cold weather. All of these coastal areas become packed to the rafters in late July and August.