By Michel Laclotte
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 remarkable occupation with heat and directness. Highlights comprise 20 years as leader curator of portray and sculpture on the Musée du Louvre, heading the workforce 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 paintings scholarship, intrigue, and fulfillment, Laclotte introduces a unprecedented forged of characters who set Frances cultural path within the postwar interval from Charles de Gaulle and André Malraux within the Nineteen Fifties to François Mitterand within the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties. His tale overlaps with nearly each significant scholarly determine in French artwork heritage of the final half-century, in addition to Laclottes mentors and co-workers 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 swap within the museum international, this quantity should be crucial examining for artwork global afficianados and all scholars of paintings and smooth culture.
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Extra info for A Key to the Louvre
After delicious meals served by his wife, who had also been a student of Focillon’s, he would show me his latest research. We were watched over by a photo of Focillon, which never left his study. His method was to demonstrate, convince, prove by making stylistic comparisons of images and backing up his statements with written documents and archival sources. As such, he left his mark on me. He set about drawing artists’ works out of oblivion (which for him meant anonymity or false attribution) like, as he said, a hunter in the darkness of the Middle Ages and reintroducing them into the light of history next to works that were already known—which were themselves constantly reexamined.
In some cases, the complexity of a religious or secular subject drew our attention sufficiently to make us want to analyze it, try to decipher it. But personally, I didn’t quite see how reading and interpreting the images might lead to a deeper understanding of the artist’s themes and intentions (even unconscious ones)—and I confess that in this I was mistaken. The iconography of a Virgin with Child on a gilded background, for instance, is usually fairly commonplace, but not always. It is no coincidence that iconographic studies became more widespread in the 1960s and that contemporary art again became representational.
The tradition of the aristocratic curator has certainly existed, but aristocratic in the academic sense: Paul Jamot was a normalien and an athénien—that is, a graduate of the Ecole Normale Supérieure and a member of the Ecole Française d’Athènes—even though his family owned a department store, the Belle Jardinière. I don’t honestly know why I chose the Italian primitives as my specialty. At the time, travel was much more difficult than it would be twenty years later, and I didn’t yet know Italy.