As I traversed a sizeable chunk of Western Europe today the names of three very famous people came into my world. They were:
1) Henri Matisse
I visited dear old Henri’s museum in the town of his birth, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, and saw some stunning original paintings from the early days of his career. However, as he got older he became more experimental and his work became more abstract to the point of it being complete and utter rubbish. He was, in my opinion, the Fernando Torres of the art world.
Had I known him before his death in 1954 I would have said to him, ‘Henri, mon ami, that’s merde. Get yourself off your fat derrière and do some real work.’
In respect of the work of any abstract artist I know it's easy to say 'I could have done that myself' but in the case of Henri Matisse I was pretty confident that I could.
Henri Matisse making paper chains for the office Christmas party.
Proof that I am just as adept at creating abstract art
as Henri Matisse was.
Henri Matisse demonstrates that he is very good at cutting out paper shapes with scissors but crap at joined up writing.
C.S.I. by Henri Matisse.
2) Arthur Rimbaud
This young man came from Charleville-Mézières. Here I found a museum dedicated to his life and work but unfortunately I didn’t have time to do any more than take photographs of this magnificent building that straddled a branch of the Meuse River.
I must confess that I know very little about him other than that he was a poet and he was probably a bit too deep and profound for me but having been to the place of his birth and where he is also buried, I know I must find out more about him when I get home.
The first time I heard about him was when French footballing demi-god, Eric Cantona, played for Leeds United. Eric would have made it to full-god status had he not signed for the Scum and gone on to be very successful. During his days at Leeds, United supporters asked him what he was interested in other than football. ‘Rimbaud’ he replied in his outrageous French accent. This prompted them to go out and buy him videos of Rambo (pronounced exactly the same as Rimbaud to a Yorkshire ear) starring Sylvester Stallone and a bloody huge gun, as a sign of their appreciation of his football skills.
This, an extract from Le Bateau ivre is a sample of his work:
As I was floating down calm Rivers
I no longer felt myself steered by the haulers:
Gaudy Redskins had taken them for targets
Nailing them naked to totem poles.
In French it rhymes, which makes it a bit better, but in any language it’s never really going to compete with Spike Milligan’s Limericks.
3) Jaques Brel
Famous person of the day for me was Belgian, Jacques Brel. I had never heard of him until I visited the Toots Thielemans Museum in Brussels last November, Toots and he having been the country’s most significant artists from the music world. Technotronic, rock legends from the 1990s, sadly didn’t get a mention.
Jacques sang his songs with great passion and pain, and apparently was a great influence upon the likes of David Bowie and Leonard Cohen.
Top of my ‘to do’ list when I get home is to buy a CD of his work. I would have done so before now but I’ve seen videos of him performing and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone sweat so much in all my life so I’m worried that the CD might be a bit whiffy.
Why on earth he had a small community theatre named after him in Monthermé in France is a complete mystery. It’s a bit like the people of Calne in Wiltshire naming their scout hut after Ella Fitzgerald.