I saw this late work by Alma-Tadema (better known for his massive classical set pieces) over at Leighton House on a pouring wet day earlier this month. Leighton House itself is pretty stunning, with an “Arab Hall” inspired by Syria and Sicily and an entrance of deep peacock blue tiles, so the perfect setting for Alma-Tadema’s equally lush art.
Rather nicely, the two artists actually knew each other and Leighton recommended his architect to Alms Tadema, when he bought Tissot’s house in St John’s Wood and decided to remodel it to include extra studios for his wife and each of his daughters. This exhibition’s well worth a trip, especially for the films showing how Alma Tadema’s art has influenced film depictions of Ancient Rome, and for a reconstruction of the “panel room”, where artistic visitors were asked to paint a contribution before leaving.
Sadly the Victor Hugo market was undergoing a huge renovation when I visited Toulouse and was both locked up and being drilled to the ground, so I didn’t get the full gastronomic experience that the city can offer, but the shops in the local streets more than did their best; chocolatier, glacier, several wine and cheese shops, a bakery, an emporium of Spanish hams… I couldn’t take photos of it all, but here’s a snippet.
Toulouse has two main art museums which are converted monasteries, now with peaceful cloisters, deck chairs for tourists and collections of religious art. The Musee des Augustins is the bigger – and if I were to guess, the wealthier, a huge red brick building that reminded me of London’s V&A.
The cloisters and gothic architecture are certainly great, while the main staircase is totally throwing out the Harry Potter vibes, but for me the absolute coup was this downstairs hall which paired sci-fi-Essie lights with a great display of earthy and funny Romanesque capitols taken from the basilica of St Sernin.
It was witty and striking without denigrating either the old or new, and done with a sense of humour that sadly most modern art galleries (Tate, I’m looking at you) lack entirely.
The basilica and de facto cathedral of Toulouse (although there’s also a 19th century cathedral building).
I found this building completely charming. Incredibly peaceful, it was far less thuggish than the northern French (Norman) Romanesque, which is so obviously military in feel. Here the brick pillars were like a Roman aqueduct, or the vaulted roof like a Renaissance villa, and the light from the second storey of windows was something else. Try as I might to capture it in these photos, I’m just not skilled enough, so you’ll have to visit and see for yourself.
A hidden corner of Paris is Gustave Moreau’s studio. The top two floors are where he’d work and his art is displayed, whilst the first floor is his house that reminded me a lot of Carlyle’s House in London in the heavy furnishing style.