In the Footsteps of a genius

Courtesy of Art for Guernsey, and as part of Le French Festival, visitors to Moulin Huet over the next few days will enter the world of French

Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s 1883 trip to Guernsey. This will include an interactive journey of events, exhibition, painting demonstration and ‘art walk’. Shaun Shackleton gets put in the frame


 MOULIN HUET has been transformed into an art gallery.

To mark the centenary of French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s death, and to celebrate the 15 paintings the artist made during his 1883 sojourn in the island, Art for Guernsey have created Renoir – 83: A Journey Through the Eyes of a Master, which includes a unique exhibition, events and a Renoir Walk. ‘We are holding a free exhibition at the former site of Moulin Huet Pottery,’ said Art for Guernsey founder David Ummels. ‘We will be using the Renoir Workshop kindly made available by Rex and Robina Opie who ran the pottery. They are Guernsey’s number one Renoir fans. There we will have eight panels explaining Renoir’s time in Guernsey. ‘Upstairs on display there will be an original Renoir drawing, graciously loaned to us by a private collector, which has not been seen in the public domain for at least 100 years. ‘As well as enlightening visitors about Renoir’s work, this is a once in- a-lifetime opportunity to see this drawing.’ Art for Guernsey have also designed a Renoir ‘art walk’, which encourages people to follow in the artist’s footsteps and appreciate the views that inspired some of his paintings.

‘We’ve designed and commissioned five empty steel frames which echo the ornate frames that the artist chose to display his work in and these will be strategically placed along the route to allow visitors to view Moulin Huet from exactly the same perspective as Renoir did,’ explained David. ‘We commissioned Atec on Lowlands Road to make the frames,’ said Jock Petit. ‘They’re made from corten steel, which weathers beautifully. We’ve only just put them in and they’re beginning to rust up nicely already. ‘When things are done properly, it takes it to another level. Corten steel costs, but the cost is more than reduced when you see the real thing.’

Kieran Wyatt-Nicolle agreed. ‘One of the good things about being passionate and entrepreneurial is that you go out and make things happen. And things happen if you have passion and drive. Art for Guernsey takes it up a gear.’

Permissions to erect the temporary frames had to be sought and the process has been one of collaboration with several parties. ‘St Martin’s constables immediately liked the idea,’ said Jock. ‘We found out that the Bailiff owns some of the land, and also the Le Page family who own the tearooms and much of the and around the bay. One of the frames will be installed on the outside table in the tearooms.’ ‘All parties have been really accommodating,’ said Kieran. ‘Rex and Robina have been brilliant allowing us to use their workshop as an exhibition area. Apparently Rex featured in a film 30 years ago recreating Renoir’s visit to Guernsey.’

From this Saturday, there will be QR codes on panels on the frames’ legs that can be scanned with a smartphone, allowing visitors to see and hear footage of a guide presented by Cyrille Sciama, who is a world authority on Renoir and Art for Guernsey’s guest of honour. ‘You can download a two-sided pdf on the Art for Guernsey website,’ said Jock. ‘There’s a frame on one side and we’d really like people to become inspired and create their own artwork while on the art walk. Any artwork made or photographs taken we would really like to see them on social media.’ The walk was launched yesterday and more than 1,000 schoolchildren are expected to turn up over the next couple of days. Mr Sciama, who is the director of the Giverny Museum of Impressionism and also co-curator of the James Tissot exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco, will inaugurate the walk proper tomorrow at 11am, starting at the Bella Luce Hotel – all are welcome to join.

‘People following the route, including school groups, will witness actors dressed in 19th-century costume on the beach, just as Renoir saw the bathers during his stay,’ said David. ‘We also have a local actor Dave Hyett playing Renoir and his family will also be taking part,’ said Jock.

Dimitri Permiakov, Art for Guernsey’s 2018 artist in residence, will be making his third trip to the island. ‘While he is here he will hold free painting demonstrations on the beach at Moulin Huet tomorrow and Saturday and, again, everyone is welcome to turn up and watch him at work,’ said David. The paintings that Dimitri creates during the two days will be exhibited at the Bella Luce Hotel in August.

‘The Renoir Walk is a fantastic example of how art can be used effectively to engage the community, support our tourism industry with innovative and exciting events and build further bridges with our neighbours in Normandy with a fine example of cultural diplomacy,’ said David.

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