When Art for Guernsey put together the Renoir Walk in the Moulin Huet Valley in 2019, it was just the start of an exciting journey which will result in a trailblazing international exhibition curated on Guernsey soil in 2023.
The Renoir Walk, which was opened in the summer of 2019, is
a self-guided alfresco exhibition that allows participants to see the bay from the same perspectives as the artist did. Bespoke ornate picture frames capture the views, and QR codes on the panels beside each frame can be scanned with a smartphone to play an audioguide by Cyrille Sciama, Director of the Musée des Impressionnismes in Giverny and a world authority on Renoir.
The opening of the Renoir Walk also featured an exhibition in a cottage in the valley, with an original Renoir drawing and panels providing information on his visit to the island. The week of the exhibition was a huge success, attracting more than 2,500 visitors, including hordes of schoolchildren. Last year planning permission was granted to make the Renoir Walk a permanent fixture, and the Lieutenant-Governor, His Excellency Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder, joined the extended Art for Guernsey family to officially declare it open.
Cyrille Sciama, guest of honour in 2019, delivered a lecture on Renoir and the Art for Guernsey team was stunned to find out that the inspiration that the artist found in the island constituted a real inflection point in his career, as the scenes that he witnessed of nude bathers on the beach reminded him of antiquity, Renaissance and Watteau, and motivated him to move away from portraiture and to paint nudes in landscapes. Taking the significance of Cyrille’s opinion on board, in early 2020 Art for Guernsey gathered together a group of like-minded collectors and successfully acquired ‘Rocher de Guernesey avec personnages’, one of only five remaining artworks that Renoir painted in Guernsey still held in private hands. Art for Guernsey sees this artwork as a valuable piece of national heritage for Guernsey and surely an ambassador for the island, with a key role to play in their cultural diplomacy strategy.
Keen to share and celebrate the return of the artwork in an inclusive way, in September 2020 Art for Guernsey curated a groundbreaking exhibition held at Beau Sejour. It attracted more than 3,000 visitors in just six days and served as a platform for the team to publicly announce their plans to curate what is believed to be the only international Renoir exhibition in 2023, on Guernsey soil.
‘Renoir 2023’, a collaboration between Art for Guernsey and the Musée des Impressionnismes de Giverny, a direct antenna of
the Musée d’Orsay, will showcase the impact Guernsey had on Renoir’s career and will include 15 to 20 masterpieces borrowed from international museums and collections. It will also touch upon 19th-century photography as Renoir viewed it as a source of competition that he felt compelled to respond to. Whilst the Impressionists were at the cutting edge of painting, this novel medium was making an impact on the art world; however, there was one thing that photographers could not capture and that was the movement of the light, which has a particular quality in the Moulin Huet valley which is captivating to artists.
Under the patronage of His Excellency Vice Admiral Sir Ian Corder KBE, Art for Guernsey recently held a digital conference which helped to secure the support of key Guernsey stakeholders for this project, as they share the charitable initiative’s vision to create a systemic opportunity for the island to develop its country brand and support local tourism.
For the three months of the exhibition in 2023, the whole island will be able to embrace Renoir’s heritage, with lots of exciting initiatives planned. The project will allow various steps to be taken to build cultural, economic and diplomatic relationships with France. Art for Guernsey and the Giverny Museum will also be organising a cultural diplomacy event in 2022 at the Musée des Impressionismes de Giverny, where decision-makers from both sides will meet to discuss ways to enhance collaborations and connections between the juridictions. Cyrille Sciama and Art for Guernsey are very much aligned on the role that art should play in children’s education, so the project will involve twinning the town of Giverny with a Guernsey parish and putting in place two-way cultural trips for schoolchildren between France and Guernsey.
The team hopes that the entire community will get behind Art for Guernsey’s Renoir journey, which presents an opportunity for the public, cultural and business community to get behind an important legacy project and a very high-profile piece of cultural diplomacy.