The Art of Guernsey
Rather than embroil itself in a tug-of-war between England and France, the island of Guernsey openly embraces the cultural nuances of both, and to great effect. Having perfectly blended British and continental European heritage, it is easy to see why the island is a hidden hotbed of artistic and creative productivity. As a massive fan of art myself, I decided to spend a weekend exploring the art, and artistic influence, that Guernsey has to offer.
Having checked into my hotel room in the town centre, I set off to explore the heart of the island’s capital and the artistic offerings it provided. The first stopping point was the Guernsey Art Museum, otherwise known as the Rona Cole Art Gallery, which is located only five minutes away from the town centre in Candie Gardens. The gallery showcases over two hundred works of art, which are organised in a chronological order from rudimental prehistoric pieces all the way up to modern day interpretations.
Personally, I loved the way the gallery was set out as it tells the complete history of Guernsey through the medium of art; and not only that but a lot of the works are by local artists. Amongst these were works by three of Guernsey’s more famous artists; Peter Le Vasseur, Peter Le Lievre, and Paul Naftel, with each one displaying their own excellent technique and injection of personality into their paintings.
My favourite piece in the gallery however has to be the portrait bust of the French author, Victor Hugo, which was masterfully created by the French artist Auguste Rodin in 1883 two years before Hugo’s death and thirteen years since Hugo ended his residence in Guernsey. As often happens to me in galleries, the time went a lot faster than I had thought meaning I found myself having to make my way back to my hotel so I could freshen up in time for dinner.
The next morning, after a wonderfully refreshing breakfast, I made my way to the bus station so that I could start the next leg of my exploration. My destination was Moulin Huet bay, which was the subject of focus for the renowned French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who spent a month on the island in 1883. Renoir is a huge artistic influence on me as I feel he perfectly masters the playfulness of light in his paintings whilst helping to drive the juggernaut movement of Impressionism. Overall Renoir created fifteen paintings during his month on the island, my favourite being the simply titled ‘Hills Around Moulin Huet Bay’, and it is easy to see how the island, and this bay in particular, inspired him to produce so many great works in such a short time span.
I felt truly honoured to be able to sit where he painted, and dabbled a bit myself with my camera and some watercolours I had brought along in case inspiration struck. Sadly though it was soon time to head back to the hotel, collect my bags and make the taxi ride back to the airport.
My weekend of being lost in art had positively flown by and now it was time to head home, back to the grind of the day job. If you are in need of a break, or like myself you are an art fanatic and have seen most of what your hometown has to offer, then I recommend taking the time to spend a weekend in Guernsey. It was a great art heritage break that I look forward to taking again when I have a bit longer to spend in the island. For more information visit the Guernsey Tourism website: www.visitguernsey.com