Railway Wagons by Vincent van Gogh at the Angladon Museum, AvignonOne of Avignon's most delightful galleries, the Angladon Museum has a discerning collection, including one of the very few paintings by Vincent van Gogh on view in Provence.

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The man to thank is Jacques Doucet, whose dapper, portly silhouette, captured in this caricature, pictured, by Leonetto Capiello, is the museum's logo.

Caricature of Jacques Doucet by Leonetto CapielloDoucet (1853-1929) was a couturier, and an extremely successful one. He was also a literary enthusiast, who mixed with the cream of 19th century writers and later sponsored surrealists such as Max Jacob, Blaise Cendrars, Louis Aragon and André Breton.

And Doucet was first and foremost a connoisseur and art-lover. "Above all don't say to him that he is a fashion designer," wrote one contemporary journalist. "Monsieur Doucet is a collector."

He started by concentrating on the conventional taste of the day, the 18th century, but gradually moved towards the contemporary avant-garde. And his collection of 19th and 20th century art is small but mightily impressive.

Pictured top left, van Gogh's superb Wagons de Chemin de Fer (it's translated variously as Railway Carriages, Railway Wagons or Railroad Cars) was painted shortly after the artist arrived in Arles in February 1888.

It celebrates the mode of transport which made it easy for so many great painters to come south in the 19th century. With its low angle, unusual diagonal composition with the main subject in the background and intense palette, it's unmistakably Vincent's work.

Picasso is represented by three Blue Period pieces (including a characteristic study of the young artist, hands in pockets, eyeing up a nude female torso) and three slightly later works from his early Cubist period.

There is a single painting, a complex still life, by Cézanne, a study of dancers by Degas, one of Modigliani's unmistakable portraits - La Blouse Rose or The Pink Blouse, pictured below - plus an atmospheric snowscape by Sisley, a Manet, a Daumier and more.

Each room has very detailed laminated notes on the individual artworks in English and French.

La Blouse Rose, Modigliani, Angladon Museum, AvignonSome of Doucet's most brilliant acquisitions - Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and a version of van Gogh's Sunflowers - have been sold while others have been donated to the Louvre.

But numerous handsome gems remain in the legacy, which was bequeathed to the city by Doucet's heirs, the Avignon artists Jean and Paulette Angladon-Dubrujeaud.

The Musée Angladon opened in 1996 and received an extensive makeover in 2016 to mark its 20th birthday.

The main difference: the new Director of the museum, Lauren Laz, has cut the clutter and reduced the number of works on display, from 400 to 250, in order to make the very most of each one.

They're hung low, at eye level, sometimes with just one or two items on a whole wall. It's a bold but surprisingly successful manoeuvre. Another innovation is a jeu de piste (puzzle trail) aimed at chldren.

The star paintings are all still there, of course. They are displayed on the lower floor, where the rooms have been painted in rich ochre yellow and charcoal grey.

musee angladon 2016Each piece is given plenty of space and the van Gogh gets a glass case all to itself, with a bench in front for you to sit and contemplate it.

One room is devoted to showcasing a single painting or artefact from the museum's stores (the chosen item changes regularly).

Upstairs on the first floor, the 18th century house - where Doucet's heirs once resided – recreates the living quarters of a family of wealthy art-lovers.

Here too the displays have been pared down - though there is still plenty to see, from an 18th century salon to a fabulously decorated oriental room.

The Musée Angladon also hosts temporary shows such as a recent one highlighting the theatrical posters and designs of Henri de Toulouse Lautrec.

News for the Musee Angladon AvignonA new space for these has been created on the second floor of the museum and its first major event is an exhibition of 52 works by Raoul Dufy, loaned from a private collection.

They cover the artist's career during over four decades. Pictured below: La chambre à Aix les Bains (Bedroom in Aix les Bains), 1944.

As well as Dufy's vibrantly coloured paintings, the show features his engravings. And it also explores a little-known but fascinating facet of his work: his long collaboration with the couturier Paul Poiret.

raoul dufy chambre aix les bainsDufy not only illustrated Poiret's collections, but also created with him a range of exclusive fabric designs.

It's all highly appropriate in view of Jacques Doucet's origins. In fact, by a nice coincidence, Poiret even began his career in Doucet's workshop!

This must-see exhibition is called La Légèrté Raoul Dufy (The Lightness of Raoul Dufy) and runs from 7 April-27 August.

Where: Musée Angladon, 5 rue Laboureur, 84000 Avignon. Tel: (+33) 4 90 82 29 03. Website for the Musée Angladon

The museum offers full wheelchair access and there are free lockers by the entrance for you to leave your bags.

insider tip for the musee angladon in avignonIf you are planning to visit more than one museum or tourist sight during your stay, be sure to pick up the "Avignon Passion" pass.

Ask for it on your first visit to a local monument and you will get discounts of between 10% and 50% to subsequent attractions both in Avignon itself and in nearby Villeneuve lès Avignon, the city which faces Avignon on the other bank of the Rhone river.

The card is valid for 15 days and can apply to up to five persons. More details from the Avignon Tourist Office.

 

 

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