Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) had a genius idea: to share with the public an enchanting world, as well as that of the life of a 19th-century bourgeois family. To pull this off, he features a well thought-out museum; his apartment is designed exactly to his taste and even has a room dedicated to Alexandrine.
The first curator will be one of his old students, Georges Rouault.
It’s like a movie set that reminds me of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo;” this ideally located house in New Athens is really quite unique.
We rediscover the ground floor that had been closed for 12 years, the rooms restored to look just as they once had when Gustave Moreau had known them are open at last, and the colors have been faithfully reproduced. The walls have finally opened up to uncover his work!
This artist is a paradox: how does one imagine the life of a man who served as a model for Proust, Oscar Wilde, André Breton, or Salvador Dalí, who refers to himself as Samson at his press conference at this same museum?
The man was living here with his parents and his old and loyal friend Alexandrine, a routine life in his private apartments put together by the artist: small rooms crammed with classic furniture, family photos, the schedules and visits of his friends and also of his dear confidant.
He had an intense love for his work. The shock is unimaginable when we arrive in the atelier, enormous in its two levels joined by a stunning spiral staircase. We are then dazzled by thousands of paintings, a huge number of watercolor drawings in cabinets that one can open at one’s own volition. These are drawings that he has always made sure to save from his earliest years.
The contrast is powerful: immense canvases like the massacre of Penelope’s suitors, debauchery, and mythological and religious scenes meet. The mythological hero Orpheus is shown with Adam and Eve in “La vie de l’humanité,” and it’s not even a problem! Like chronology, architecture and subjects are just excuses that allow him to paint his fantasies.
Take the time to admire the great wealth of details treated like jewels, fragile bodies abandoned in their impressive rocky scenery with flowers, birds, unicorns…
It seems that there are several paintings left unfinished…so is this not a reason to conserve them for eternity?
Who was he? A smuggler, as some might suggest, a symbolist, a romantic? He is really unable to be classified.
But above all, take advantage of this marvelous opportunity that we have bestowed upon Gustave Moreau: a place out of time.
Florence Briat Soulie
Translated by Erica DeMichiel , Wesleyan University, Vassar Wesleyan Program in Paris Fall 2015.
Musée national Gustave Moreau – 14, rue de La Rochefoucauld 75009 PARIS
Téléphone : 01 48 74 38 50 Fax : 01 48 74 18 71 Contact : firstname.lastname@example.org
Pierre-Louis Mathieu (Author) – « Salvador Dali ,Gustave Moreau, André Breton » . ACR édition. 2012.