A Key to the Louvre by Michel Laclotte

By Michel Laclotte

An paintings international insider offers a witty and penetrating account of 50 years on the middle of overseas culture.

Art historian, curator, and museum director Michel Laclotte has been on the leading edge of French cultural lifestyles over the last part century. This casual autobiography sheds mild on his extraordinary profession with heat and directness. Highlights comprise 20 years as leader curator of portray and sculpture on the Musée du Louvre, heading the crew that created the Musée dOrsay, and taking the reins of the Louvre to guide the hassle that culminated within the museums transformation into the “Grand Louvre,” one of many worlds preeminent cultural attractions.

Raising the curtain on fifty years of Western artwork scholarship, intrigue, and fulfillment, Laclotte introduces a unprecedented solid of characters who set Frances cultural course within the postwar interval from Charles de Gaulle and André Malraux within the Nineteen Fifties to François Mitterand within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties. His tale overlaps with almost each significant scholarly determine in French artwork background of the final half-century, in addition to Laclottes mentors and associates all through and past Europe, from Roberto Longhi and Anthony Blunt to Sir John Pope-Hennessy and Millard Meiss. An incomparable testomony to a interval of seismic switch within the museum international, this quantity can be crucial analyzing for artwork international afficianados and all scholars of paintings and glossy culture.

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Why this lifelong interest? This need to index every painting I’ve ever seen, to inventory others I found in every book I could lay my hands on? To itemize all the Rembrandts or Fragonards in French collections? No doubt an adolescent passion for classification. And alongside this went a profound interest in the national patrimony. The result of my family’s traditional patriotism? Perhaps. From my first serious readings in art history, before my studies made them more systematic, I’ve retained a keen memory of Henri Focillon’s The Life of Forms and Salomon Reinach’s Apollo—an admirable little pocket guide, the equivalent of which I would love to find today—as well as of several “coffee table” books.

It was thanks to him, for example, that the “Maison du Fada” in Marseilles was built by Le Corbusier, against all odds. He would have preferred Louis Arretche’s reconstruction scheme for Saint-Malo to be more radically contemporary—though perhaps he was mistaken in this, for apart from some cheaply made buildings on the ramparts, the urban planning, style, integration of surviving architectural elements, and use of granite are overall quite successful. I have been asked what I think of Louis Hautecoeur, who was general secretary for fine arts under Vichy.

After his first books in 1938 and 1942 and a series of articles in L’Oeil, crowned by two large volumes on Parisian painting at the end of his long life, he recreated what French painting had been in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A bit like what Berenson and Longhi had done for the Italian primitives, or Chandler R. Post for the Spanish, or Max Friedländer for the Flemish primitives. He played the role of discoverer, but more than this he offered a new, coherent critical and historical vision, from a European perspective, of painterly creation in fifteenth-century France.

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