15 Feb Art is everywhere. He gives us this incredible strength to face adversity
… Yes, but today the museums are closed. During the pandemic, many had to adapt and come up with creative solutions to remain “open” to the public.
Evoking certain works via this blog is a way of sharing an emotion and the reflections that they arouse while waiting for better days…
In 1937, in the context of the time – when disorder reigns (already) in France – the “aging” Popular Front had imagined the organization of an International Exhibition, inspired by the initial idea of the organizers of the Exhibition of Decorative Arts of 1925.
This Universal Exhibition of Arts and Techniques was to be that of the Modern World
The aim was to cover an entire district of Paris (from the Chaillot hill to the Place d’Iéna) and invite all countries of the world to exhibit their work. This exhibition was to represent the Universe, the New Society resulting from recent progress.
Raoul Dufy was then approached to produce a work intended to celebrate the glory of the Electricity Fairy
In 10 months this multi-talented ambidextrous illustrator, helped by two assistants, will create what to this day remains the largest painting in the world with an area of 600 m2!
This has just been restored and can be (re) discovered at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris when it is possible again.
Composed of 250 panels screwed to each other, it represents a fluid fresco on which the gaze slips to discover a sequence of snapshots where nothing is forgotten: fields, nature, factories, popular scenes of life where ball musettes succeed one another and first neon signs….
He records the presence of objects that marked the eruption of electricity into our lives, permanently sealing the demise of those brigades of gas lantern lighters that roamed the streets when dusk fell.
There are the silhouettes of great scholars like Archimedes, Thales and Aristotle and others more anonymous like those of the first air traffic controllers at Le Bourget Airport.
More than 108 scientists are glorified under the brush of Dufy, all contributors to a fundamental discovery.
We find Edison and the illumination of the Pont Alexandre III, the first monument to be “brought to light” in this way, Volta and the first fold, the telegram from Mr. Morse and the electricity from Franklin’s lightning.
The only female figure in this “artistic epic” is Marie Curie represented from behind: at the time, “science” seemed to be feminine only at the grammatical level.
Looking more closely we find the reproduction of the discovery of an unknown Italian physicist of the 18th century, Luigi Galvani and his revelation of 1797: on touching the body of a dead frog, he noticed an electrical reaction thus realizing that within organisms was a form of electricity.
Ignored for nearly two centuries, his invention is at the origin of our great medical progress with electrocardiograms and other defibrillators which we would hardly be able to do without today.
This work by Dufy is a hymn to discovery and each sequence makes us vibrate for Science. It is also an invitation to conduct our little survey on specific points, inventions that have entered the collective consciousness and today contribute to our comfort and well-being.
More than continuous progress, what is striking over the centuries is that we proceed in succession of lightning advances and unforeseen risks.
It is difficult to understand in real time the consequences of our decisions and what we sometimes fear can turn into essential progress.
The fresco by Raoul Dufy at the time testified to the influence of French art.
Today, that kind of artistic stroll nourishes the soul and is perhaps more thought-provoking than speeches do. It allows us, in pictures, to apprehend the reality of Progress and our evolution… until 1937.
Not sure that 600m2 will be enough to represent the sequel until our troubled days…
Men make history, but don’t know the history they make – Raymond Aron
* Malou Moulis