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Getting Creatively Lost: A Ramble Through France

Jean Lurçat

Jean Lurçat's tapestry titled Chicago.

My first afternoon in St.-Céré, I walked up a long, hot, steep hill to a museum dedicated to Jean Lurçat, an artist little known across the Atlantic. He worked mostly in tapestries, and, many years ago, I’d stumbled across one in Angers called Le Chant du Monde (Song of the World). I like his whimsy, the power of his understatement, and his colors. His work reminds me of Chagall and Mirò, though for different reasons.

Lurçat lived in St.-Céré for much of his life, and the converted castle atop the steep hill served as his studio and residence. I was practically melting when I arrived and had to mop my forehead and fan myself a good fifteen minutes. The museum has an excellent collection of his work; not just tapestries, but paintings, in which he tested out many styles, including Cubism, and ceramics. But the studio and house itself are works of art, because Lurçat painted and/or carved designs into the walls and ceilings, and he painted and fired the dishes in the dining room.

The artist was quite a story himself, apparently. He was wounded twice in World War I and was active in the Resistance in the second war. It’s said that French Communists (there were many in the Resistance) helped him buy his castle. I asked someone at the museum whether that really happened, and he only smiled and shrugged.

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