After writing my earlier Art and Literature ‘pilgrimages’ post I found I had more of an archive on my ‘art pilgrimage’ than I thought. In addition to two photo albums, I also found a visual diary, with photos, postcards and text (some I copied from the travel diary I kept on the trip) and an album of postcards. This seems excessive in hindsight, but the trip was a turning point in terms of my art history studies. Prior to the trip I had studied some art history at secondary school level; I had been to various art history continuing education classes, and once I decided to go on the tour I enrolled in the Victoria University second-year level course on Modernism. But within a year after this trip I had resigned from permanent employment in the public service and soon enrolled in more university courses – eventually completing a Master of Arts in art history.
The other factor that has prompted me to write a postscript was this obituary for Tony Bellette that appeared in the Dominion Post newspaper last Saturday.
Tony was the art history expert leader of my ‘art pilgrimage’ – I went on the last tour he offered for Victoria University Continuing Education. I think I had probably attended all the continuing education lectures he gave over a decade or so for Victoria University and was envious of those who went on his tours – and eventually decided I would go on one – as it turned out it was the last he did. He was an inspirational lecturer. I had an interest in art history before taking his lectures, but he was certainly the main influence on my pursuing it to university level.
As the obituary says, he was also a keen tramper (hiker) and as he led our group of 36 around various parts of France he would be striding off at the front with the 36 straggling along behind and Jan Blayney (co-leader) at the back trying to make sure no one got left behind!
After a stay in Paris, we took a bus trip around France. This map shows our route. Towards the end of the trip, on the last day we were on the bus, we had a sweepstake to guess the number of kilometres we had travelled from Paris back to (near) Paris. I guessed 4215 km, based on little more than a hunch. Others had maps out and were trying to work it out. The answer was 4217.5 km – I won the chocolate prize. The highest guess was 36,000 km and the lowest was 600 km – I don’t know what trip they were on!
So here are just a few more images from the trip…
Comment from my visual diary – ‘went past a shoe shop selling clown shoes, which should have been a giveaway that a circus was nearby. Sat in a park outside Le Cirque d’Hiver (Winter Circus) – a wonderful circular building. Then went in search of the oldest house in Paris (according to Lonely Planet – c. 1295?) Found it eventually (3 Rue Volta) – but it wasn’t signposted.”
In Albi, “I went to find Toulouse-Lautrec’s birth house – easy as it’s in Rue Toulouse-Lautrec! Next door was La Perouse’s house (French South Seas explorer). He lived there c. 100 years before Toulouse-Lautrec (c. 1780 & c. 1860). So then I cut over to the new square and saw the statue of La Perouse.”
Of course I didn’t know then that several years later for my MA thesis I would study images of Pacific peoples in illustrated books c. 1800, and La Perouse and his ill-fated mission naturally came up. If I remember correctly, some of the drawings from his expedition were sent back to France from Sydney, before he and his ship disappeared further north. They were shipwrecked on Vanikoro’s coral reefs, as the Wikipedia entry (click link above) explains.