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    Charles Rennie Mackintosh Trail in Roussillon: Collioure

     

    Charles Rennie Mackintosh & Margaret Macdonald

    Art is the flower – Life is the green leaf. Let every artist strive to make his flower a beautiful living thing – something that will convince the world that there may be – there are – things more precious -more beautiful – more lasting than life. But to do this you must offer real living – beautifully coloured flowers – flowers that grow from but above the green leaf – flowers that are not dead – are not dying – not artificial – real flowers springing form your own soul – not even cut flowers – you must offer the flowers of the art that is in you – the symbols of all that is noble – and beautiful – and inspiring – flowers that will often change a colourless cheerless life – into an animated thoughtful thing.

    (Charles Rennie Mackintosh Seemliness-lecture 1902)

    The Tree of Personal Effort Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1895

    The Tree of Personal Effort Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1895

    Wanderer, your footsteps are
    the road, and nothing more;
    wanderer, there is no road,
    the road is made by walking.
    By walking one makes the road,
    and upon glancing behind
    one sees the path
    that never will be trod again.
    Wanderer, there is no road–
    Only wakes upon the sea.

     
    Antonio Machado from “Proverbios y cantares” in Campos de Castilla,1912
    Antonio Machado portrait

    Antonio Machado portrait

    Antonio Machado (1875-1939), the great Spanish poet is buried in the little cemetery of Collioure where he died in 1939, not long after fleeing his country in company of his mother and uncle after Franco’s victory, at the end of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The Scottish artists and the Spanish poet did not met in Collioure since Antonio Machado arrived there about ten years after Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s death but they were contemporary.

    On the basement of a statue erected in front of the sea in memoriam of the poet there is a plaque with the same verses as those we can read on his gravestone. I’ve found a good English translation of these verses on the Virtual Tourist website on the page ’25 things to do in Collioure’. Barbara, the translator is a Welsh travel writer who writes under the pseudonym of  Ranger49.

    Collioure plaque Antonio Machado © 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure plaque Antonio Machado © 2012 Scotiana

    ‘A ceramic plaque bearing the words of the final verse of one of Machado’s poems rests on his grave. The same verse can be seen on the base of a small sculpture of a plaintive figure that stands looking out to sea on the grass beside the childrens playground on Rue de la Democratie next to the entrance to the Chateau carpark.’ (Ranger49)

    And when the day for the last journey comes,
    and the ship of no return is ready to set sail,
    you will find me on board, travelling light,
    practically naked, like the children of the sea.

    Luminous reflections on the sea -Ferry Mallaig-Armadale © 2003 Scotiana

    Luminous reflections on the sea – Ferry Mallaig-Armadale © 2003 Scotiana

     

    Wanderer, there is no road–
    Only wakes upon the sea.
    .
    Margaret and Charles Rennie Mackintosh have left a luminous ‘wake upon the sea’,  especially in Roussillon where they lived the last and probably the happiest years of their life, from 1923 to 1927.
    .
    Charles Rennie Mackintosh left France in the autumn of 1927 to undergo radium treatment for his cancer at the Westminster Hospital in London where he died on 10 December 1928. In May 1929 Margaret came back to Port-Vendres to scatter the ashes of her beloved companion in the blue waters of the Mediterranean, staying at the Hotel du Commerce as she would do each summer thereafter, until her death in London on 7 January 1933.
    .
    Mackintosh Trail journey in Roussillon - Scotiana modified Google map 1 © 2012 Scotiana

    Mackintosh Trail journey in Roussillon – Scotiana modified Google map

    You can follow us on our Mackintosh Trail on the above map. Based at Prades and after visiting Ille sur Têt and Port-Vendres we now arrive at Collioure …
    .
    Having spent the morning in Port-Vendres and lingered two hours ‘Chez Pujol‘, a very good waterfront sea-food restaurant, we arrived at about 16:30 pm in  Collioure which is not far. The Mackintoshes used to walk there from Port-Vendres and it took them half an hour to get there.
    .
    Our first impressions of the magnificent bay of Collioure are unforgettable. The landscape is absolutely splendid when you arrive by the road, from where you can get a panoramic view of the place.

     

    Collioure The beach Church Notre Dame des Anges © 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure The beach Church Notre Dame des Anges © 2012 Scotiana

    .
    Even if we only stayed a couple of hours in Collioure it was enough for us to fall in love with the place. The “jewel of Côte Vermeille” is set between sea and mountains, between the Mediterranean and the ‘Chaîne des Albères’ (Albera massif), the easternmost part of the Pyrénees.
    .
    .
    The 'Château Royal' in Collioure Roussillon France © 2012 Scotiana

    The ‘Château Royal’ in Collioure © 2012 Scotiana

    .
    Many pages of tumultuous history have been written in Collioure as its territory has always been much disputed. Collioure was alternatively annexed to the  kingdoms of Aragon,  Majorca and  France and it has become a French town since the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. The past has left more than traces here: the fortified church, Notre Dame des Anges with its curious round bell tower which was once a lighthouse, the 12th century ‘Royal Castle’…
    .
    The Royal Castle in Collioure Roussillon France © 2012 Scotiana

    The Royal Castle in Collioure © 2012 Scotiana

    .
     ‘Le château Royal’ hides more than a mystery within its old walls. It was once a Templar fortress. So, ‘avis aux amateurs de trésors’ .. one treasure might well  be hidden here ;-).
    .
    Collioure dog on the beach © 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure dog on the beach © 2012 Scotiana

    .
    We didn’t have time to lose ourselves in the maze of the narrow paved streets, lined withold flourished houses, artist’s galleries, shops, cafés and restaurants….
    .
    Collioure road signs to the old Dominican Convent Roussillon France© 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure road signs to the old Dominican Convent © 2012 Scotiana

    .

    But we walked on the waterfront, around the town, on the beaches and  up the Dominican Cloister….

    .

    The old Dominican Convent in Collioure Roussillon France© 2012 Scotiana

    The old Dominican Cloister in Collioure © 2012 Scotiana

     a green oasis with a peaceful atmosphere…
    The Bay of Collioure Roussillon France © 2012 Scotiana

    The Bay of Collioure © 2012 Scotiana

     

    It is one of the most wonderful places we have ever seen. It is only a fishing village and it will be difficult to find accommodation – and there is no hotel…

    (From a letter written by Margaret in Collioure during the summer of 1924 )

     

    The remarkable landscapes, the vivid colours and the quality of light in Collioure have attracted many artists here, like Matisse and Derain who created the Fauvist Art. As there is a Mackintosh Trail in the area, there is also a Fauvism footpath with reproduction panels of paintings in situ.
    .
    The year before their settling in Port-Vendres Margaret and Charles Rennie Mackintosh had spent the summer in this picturesque and lively Catalan fishing village. The Fauvists had already left the place but it is here that the Mackintoshes met the English artists Rudolph Ihlee and Edgar Hereford. They made friends  with them and the favourite meeting place of the small artistic community  was ‘Le Café des Sports’ , now called ‘Les Templiers’.
    Collioure Bay - Notre Dame des Anges - St Vincent chapel © 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure Bay – Notre Dame des Anges – St Vincent chapel © 2012 Scotiana

    “No sky in all France is more blue than that of Collioure”

    (H. Matisse)

    In the early 20th century Collioure became a center of artistic activity, with several Fauve artists making it their meeting place. André Derain, Georges Braque, Othon Friesz, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, James Dickson Innes and Tsuguharu Fujita have all been inspired by Collioure’s royal castle, medieval streets, its lighthouse converted into the church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges and its typical Mediterranean bay. Collioure’s cemetery contains the tomb of Spanish poet Antonio Machado, who fled here to escape advancing Francois troops at the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939.

    The British historical novelist Patrick O’Brian lived in the town from 1949 until his death in 2000, and his novel The Catalans graphically describes Collioure life before major changes took place. He also wrote a biography of Picasso, who was an acquaintance. O’Brian and his wife Mary are also buried in the town cemetery. (…)

    Ninety-eight reproductions of Matisse’s and Derain’s works are exposed exactly where these two masters of Fauvism painted the originals, in the early 20th century.

    Collioure is also famous for its anchovies, which are referenced in Mark Kurlansky’s book Salt as the best in the world.

    Source: Wikipedia

     

    Three  are only three watercolours painted by Mackintosh in the area of Collioure:

    Collioure watercolour painted by CR Mackintosh in 1924

    “Collioure” Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s watercolour painted in 1924

    On the south side of the bay you can follow the path along the shore to the Plage de la Balette, where he sat, probably with his back against the rocks, to paint Collioure, which shows Vauban’s Fort Miradou, built in 1671. (…)  Collioure was one of the few French watercolours exhibited during Mackintosh’s lifetime, and was shown at the Sixth Exhibition in Chicago in 1926.

    (Monsieur Mackintosh Robin Crichton)

     

    CR Mackintosh's watercolour The Summer Palace of the Queens of Aragon

    CR Mackintosh’s watercolour The Summer Palace of the Queens of Aragon

    The Summer Palace of the Queens of Aragon was painted from beside the Route Impériale across the bay but the spot where Mackintosh mus have sat is now a private garden. The view is much the same today except that one of the towers has been restored’.

    (Monsieur Mackintosh – Robin Crichton)

    Collioure reconstruction panel of Mackintosh's 'The Summer Palace of the Queens' © 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure reconstruction panel of Mackintosh’s ‘The Summer Palace of the Queens’ © 2012 Scotiana

    Here’s the only reconstruction panel we’ve found of a watercolour painted by Mackintosh in Collioure.

    Collioure Mackintosh in situ reproduction panel of 'The Summer Palace of the Queens' © 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure Mackintosh in situ reproduction panel of ‘The Summer Palace of the Queens’ © 2012 Scotiana

    We stayed a long moment here, admiring the landscape and trying to imagine the artist at work…

    We could not have had a better weather…

    CR Mackintosh's watercolour A Southern Town 1924

    CR Mackintosh’s watercolour A Southern Town 1924

    A Southern Town painted in 1924.

    Mackintosh was attracted to the rural villages nestling in the hillsides of southern France, drawn by the organic way in which the towns sprang from their surrounding landscape. The simple geometric shapes of the houses provided a patterned landscape ideally suited to the stylized manner in which Mackintosh interpreted the scene around him. This painting of A Southern Town reflects the strong Mediterranean sunlight, throwing dark long shadows and illuminating the brilliant white of the buildings. Mackintosh was unusual in his approach to painting by treating the entire canvas in the same detailed manner. A strange but effective dynamic is created in his use of strong, bold perspective. (Mackintosh – Tamsin Pickeral Flame Tree Publishing 2005)

     

    Collioure in situ frame sculpture Marc-André 2 Figueres © 2012 Scotiana

    Collioure in situ frame sculpture Marc-André 2 Figueres © 2012 Scotiana

     

    Now, a funny touch to end our artistic tour of the village.  There are twelve picture frames like this dotted all around Collioure which allow you to get a different view of the famous clocher of Collioure. It will be your own view and also a changing view of course. It will never be the same. These so-called ‘sculptures’ were created by the artist Marc Andre De Figueres in 1991. It is a good idea, isn’t it !

     

     

    Twilight in the old fishing village of Collioure Source Wikimedia

    Twilight in the old fishing village of Collioure Source Wikimedia

     

    It was late when we left Collioure but not late enough alas to watch the sunset falling on the Bay. Next time maybe…

    Bonne lecture !

    The next episode of our ‘Mackintosh pilgrimage’ in Roussillon will lead us to Amélie-les-Bains and  Palalda…

    A bientôt!

    Mairiuna

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