Culturissima has just returned from two days in northern France on behalf of one of our British clients, a travel agency based just outside Cambridge that wants to put together a tour of Lille and its environs.
What are we going to report back?
First, that Goya’s twin canvases The Old Women and The Young Women are enough in themselves to attract the art-lover to northern France. Yet Lille, where Flemish tradition meets French culture, and Valenciennes, the birthplace of Antoine Watteau, have many other exquisite treasures on display.
Lille’s Palais des Beaux Arts hosts the most valuable gathering of art in France outside Paris - not just the magnificent Goyas but also an outstanding collection of Old Master pictures and sculpture with work by Donatello, Rubens, van Dyck and Jordaens. The galleries also house an impressive selection of French 18th and 19th century gems with major œuvres by Jacques-Louis David. A short distance away lies the 13th century Hospice Comtesse, hung with 15th to 18th century paintings together with tapestries by Guillaume Werniers.
Valenciennes’ Musée des Beaux Arts pays ample tribute to the creative talent of the town’s two most famous sons, Watteau and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. The museum is also the setting for a notable group of Flemish 17th century paintings, in particular Rubens triptych of St Etienne and Descent from the Cross.
The focal point of our afternoon in the cathedral town of Tournai was the Musée des Beaux Arts, designed by the Belgian art nouveau architect Victor Horta. The museum’s holdings stretch from the early Flemish tradition to Monet and Seurat. And our final day was spent re-visiting the Museum of Modern Art in Villeneuve d’Ascq, set in a verdant sculpture park and endowed with prized work by Picasso, Braque, Modigliani and Miro.