This month at ArtSmart we’ve loosened the topic to be somewhat of a personal choice. In case this is your first time hearing of the ArtSmart Roundtable, it is a group of bloggers with a love of travel and art history. Each month all the bloggers involved write a blog post interpreting the theme in their own way. You can read more ArtSmart posts with the links at the bottom of this blog.
This month’s theme is “Artist” and I want to go a little unconventional. I first found my topic by walking into a grand white room with pews, an elongated fireplace and a huge tapestry positioned like an altarpiece at the back of the room. Below the tapestry is a black piano with signatures covering most of the wooden interior belly (ex. Celine Dion & Sting). As I write this the room sounds like a personal devotional chapel with expensive fixtures but it is actually used as an events room/tasting room at the Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna, BC.
The proprietor, Anthony Von Mandl, searched for 2 years to find a art piece that would be able to compliment the room, wines and what Mission Hill Winery stands for as an accomplished institution that began in Mandl’s day dreams. He finally found such a work of art in France by Yvette Cauquil-Prince, a woman who worked with Marc Chagall to translate his artwork into expertly woven tapestries.
Seeing the photo you would probably have thought at first that the piece above the piano was a painting with it’s rich colours and the illusion of painted texture, however, the amount of detail reveals the caliber of the craftswoman.
Yvette Cauquil-Prince worked with many modernists throughout her life, figures like Picasso, Paul Klee, Max Ernst (who I consider the playboy of Surrealism but that’s another story) and Kandinsky. Unfortunately resources on her biography are scarce but what I did discover is that she studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels finding herself in good company alongside Rene Magritte and James Ensor. Amazingly her talent as a tapestry artist was self taught. It wasn’t until 1960s where she was introduced to Chagall and an immediate bond was formed transforming her life forever. Chagall often referred to Cauquil-Prince as his spiritual daughter while she explained their relationship as she being the conductor and Chagall the music.
The particular tapestry that hangs in Mission Hill, called “Animal Tales” is an homage to Chagall by Cauquil-Prince and is a collage of all his most accomplished works literally woven into one brilliant piece.
What I love about this tapestry is that Cauquil-Prince used her creativity to create this piece and is not a “copy” from Chagall’s painting like her other 39 or so tapestries she and Chagall collaborated on. She decided where to position each character, that variety of colours used and overall design of the piece which in my mind elevates her out of the realm of craftswoman and into fine artist.
For Mission Hill to acquire such a work was not an easy task. As it was explained by Chef Matt Batey during our winery tour, once Mandl found the work he desired he had to convince Cauquil-Prince that it was indeed meant to hang in this Canadian winery. This inspired Mandl to bring the late Cauquil-Prince to the Okanagan location hoping that she would be swayed by the beauty of the valley and the caliber of the winery. Luckily Cauquil-Prince agreed to make the journey to Canada (something my 67 year-old grandmother would have never done) and luckily she approved. Her agreement to sell the work to Mandl created what is now known as the Chagall Room.
I can only surmise as to what attracted proprietor Anthony Von Mandl to this particular work. The way in which it brings together, in a magical way, all walks of life and characters that can be found at this winery – a bride with the numerous weddings held here each year, the spectators at the top right like the spectators during the outdoor concert series in summer, the wreath at the middle of the scene representing the abundance of the land, the mythical characters creating a sense of magic that, I would assume, Von Mandl associates with the power of the fermented grapes when they cascade over your palate. The colours alone are representative of Mission Hill Winery with their pinot noir grapes growing steps away from the tasting room, the blues of the lake and sky, the golds of the riesling ice wines.
But what I assume attracted Von Mandl to Chagall in the first place was his association with dreams. For Von Mandl this winery started as a dream as he left his corporate job and decided to take a leap of faith and devote himself to wine. So the Chagall room at the Mission Hill Winery perhaps is a devotional room, a chapel dedicated to following dreams no matter how surreal they might seem.
Why do you think this work was chosen to be displayed at Mission Hill Winery?
ArtSmart Posts for May 2013
Erin from A Sense of Place wrote “The Optical Illusion of Guarino Guarini”
Jeff from EuroTravelogue wrote “The Art of Édourard Manet, Pioneer of Modernism”
Christina from Day Dream Tourist wrote “Hieronymus Bosch: Morality & Monsters”
Jenna from This is My Happiness wrote “The Best Place to See Caravaggio in Rome”
Lesley from Culture Tripper wrote “The Visual Enigmas of Rene Magritte”
Thanks so much for sharing this awesome info!I have bookmarked your blog, the articles are way better than other similar blogs.. thanks for a great blog!
Mission Hills is beautiful – art, gardens, view, architecture and of course wine.
Thanks for commenting Judith.
I’ve visited your site and am intrigued by your book.
Sounds like an insightful and unique read regarding your time in Italy.
Very cool! I had never heard of Cauquil-Prince (maybe I would have paid more attention to 20th century art history if I had). I love the juxtaposition of such an old art form portraying such a modern subject. Where is the winery in relation to Vancouver? I should send my parents to go visit.
The winery is in the Okanagan so about 4 hours away. Let me know if they do come my way – I’d be happy to direct them to some of the best wineries and restaurants. It can be overwhelming since there are over 140+ wineries.
As for Cauquil-Prince – I just discovered her tapestries while visiting the winery. Even during research most sites credited Chagall with the tapestries as opposed to Cauquil-Prince – I guess that harks back to the art vs craft debate. But that’s what I love about this piece – she is both the creator of the image (she decided what colours, paintings of Chagall’s and scale) and the weaver of the tapestry.
Thank you for commenting!
So much fantasy from the ArtSmart Roundtable this month: Chagall, Bosch, Magritte! It’s amazing to me the connections discovered; this tapestry artist attended school in Brussels with Magritte. The tapestry looks stunning in its current situation. Kudos to the winery owner for seeking out and investing in real art.
Good eye Lesley!
I was quiet impressed with the winery proprietor for his invested interest in art. There are also many sculptural works by a lovely French artist named Nathalie Decoster and I had a peak in a private dinning room and saw a familiar style of painting but couldn’t quite make it out.
Thanks for commenting!
Extraordinary account of Chagall’s works my friend. I have never really been exposed to much of his work before this post and you certainly piqued my curiosity with the works featured in this post! Now to seek out and understand more of his world!
I too was unfamiliar with his work. I saw a few here and there but never really was able to take time and do some research.
I found this tapestry by Cauquil-Prince most intriguing though because she took her own favourite parts of Chagall’s work and wove it into her own original piece as opposed to her previous collaborations with him where her tapestries would mirror his paintings directly. A master either way.
Thank you for commenting!
Thank you very much for the very interesting article! This tapestry is a replica of “Bestiaire et Musique” painting.
Isn’t it amazing? If you look closer it is a culmination of all his greatest hits!