Art in Champagne

The Champagne region (External link) has long been intrinsically linked with the arts and with artists, and boasts a rich heritage of beautiful stained glass and intricate statues, in particular from the Renaissance. The tradition ofart in Champagne continues today, making it an ideal destination for lovers of art, from the traditional to the contemporary and Expressionist. Don’t miss…

  • Auguste Renoir’s family home, open to the public from 3 June 2017, situated in the artists’ village of Essoyes. Visitors can discover what peasant life was like at the start of the 20th century, when Renoir came to experience rural life in Champagne. A new cultural centre houses a permanent exhibition paying tribute to the Renoir family, showing a film on their work plus extra temporary exhibits and the chance to visit Renoir’s studio and gardens. You can also walk around Essoyes to see the scenes the artist painted.

  • A special Renoir exhibition entitled ‘Another Renoir’ at Troyes’ Modern Arts Museum takes place from 17 June to 17 September 2017, in honour of the opening of the artist’s family home. Comprising some 40 works primarily taken from French public collections, the exhibition reinterprets Renoir’s career and is accompanied by a programme of activities for all audiences, including guided tours, conferences and workshops. The labyrinth of narrow paved streets in Troyes are also a joy to walk around, lined with richly coloured half-timbered houses that are among France’s best preserved.

  • The opening of the first international Camille Claudel Museum in Nogent-sur Seine in spring 2017, displaying 40 works spanning her artistic career. The young Claudel arrived in Nogent in 1876 and settled with her family in an 18th-century bourgeois house, which stands at the entrance to the museum. Claudel modelled her first clay figurines in Nogent and here met Alfred Boucher, who introduced her to Auguste Rodin in 1882: the start of a passionate but tormented relationship.

  • There is an annual summer exhibition at the Contemporary Art Centre of Auberive Abbey, housed in the western wing of this beautiful Cistercian abbey south of Langres. The centre was opened in 2006 by the Volot family, who carried out extensive restoration on the abbey itself. Founded in 1135 by 12 monks from Clairvaux, the abbey prospered in the 13th century before being pillaged during the wars that followed, was then rebuilt in the 18th century and later spent time as a cotton mill, a holiday home, a female prison and even a boys’ detention centre. Abbey tickets include entry to the exhibition, which focuses on the spiritual and runs from June to September 2017.

  • The Jean de la Fontaine Museum, housed in an elegant private mansion near Château Thierry on the western edge of the Champagne vineyards, was the birthplace of the 17th-century poet and now documents his life and work. Visitors can see original versions of his books, containing drawings and illustrations of the contemporary artists who influenced him. Works by Rigaud, Bouche, Julien, Fragonard, Oudry, Delacroix, Chagall and Dali remind us of the power of Jean de la Fontaine’s fables throughout history. The museum is classified as a ‘historical monument’ and forms part of the ‘Vignobles et Découvertes’ wine tourism label. The theme of ‘La Fontaine and Wine’ is being developed throughout 2017.

  • Could this be Champagne’s most picturesque half-timbered town? Troyes’ collection of beautiful wooden houses is arguably the most extensive and best preserved of its kind in France, a plethora of vertical, horizontal and diagonal stripes in myriad colours that made it deserve the name of ‘city of a thousand colours’. Today, Troyes radiates the artistic riches handed down by the “Beautiful 16th century”. Following an intellectually and economically effervescent Middle Ages, the Renaissance gave the Capital of Champagne Fairs a concentration of all the artistic disciplines (architect, painting, sculpture and stained-glass) marked by the impact on the occidental culture of universally known characters. Its current architectural and urbanistic form date from this pivotal period: historical centre shaped like a champagne cork, like a happy omen. From the terrible fire that ravaged one quarter of the city in 1524 to the isolated patches unfit for habitation at the end of the Second World War, Troyes rose again, aware of its moral obligation to protect, maintain and transmit this exceptional heritage to future generations. Part of this heritage, the stained-glass windows make the city a veritable illustrated book! Between 1480 and 1580, no less than 29 glass painters, at once creators, restorers and glaziers, worked here. Today, the Cité du Vitrail, near the Saint-Pierre-and-Saint-Paul cathedral of Troyes, alone hosts 1500 sq.m.of glassware. This cultural and educational facility, set up in the compound of the Hôtel-Dieu-le-Comte, presents several stained-glass exhibitions at eye level.