A Tale of two Sculptors

Calder and de Cacqueray

TRAVEL THROUGH FRANCEFILMS , MUSIC, DRAMA AND ART

Joan

10/22/20234 min read

Sometimes , things just fall into place fortuitously, and that to me, is what makes them so special. We have never been fans of the Good Travel Guides, or such like, as we avidly wish to avoid tourist meccas, and prefer to stumble upon things by chance. Just as we accidentally discovered the Chateau de Chenonçeau, we discovered the Spanish Cathedral of Santiago de la Compostella. We were on a cycling/camping adventure, with abysmal forward planning. So when we stumbled upon this gem in the seventies, we were truly amazed. It almost felt like it belonged to us. Nowadays, I fear we would barely be able to get close.

And so it was on my recent trip to the Loire region, that I accidentally stumbled upon the work of two sculptors. One of these sculptors, Alexander Calder, I was already familiar with. The second sculptor is my hostess at the Manoir de Vonnes, Florence de Cacqueray. Both discoveries were a delightful surprise.

Shortly after we arrived in this region, I took a short drive by myself to the village of Saché, not far from our gîte. I parked in the main village square, close to the elegant mairie. There was a large modern metal statue in the middle of the main square which I thought looked rather incongruous. I was more interested in the half timbered village buildings. But when I idly read a notice attached to the statue, my excitement rose. For this statue was created by the famous American sculptor Alexander Calder.

Alexander Calder

The totem sculpture by Alexander Calder
The totem sculpture by Alexander Calder
Saché, Indre et Loire
Saché, Indre et Loire
The totem mobile sculpture.
The totem mobile sculpture.

I was particularly interested in this discovery as I had already come across Calder's work at an exhibition which was held at our local Musée Fleury a long time ago. I had been fascinated by the smaller mobiles which were exhibited there, and was later intrigued to see one such mobile strung above the bed of the late Peggy Guggenheim at her palazzo home in Venice. These mobiles are unique , delicate things. I believe that Calder was especially interested in creating artworks which moved independently in the currents of air. In Saché, the large red and blue discs swung gently above my head.

A typical Calder mobile, 1948
A typical Calder mobile, 1948

But the archive of Calder's work is multivarious, ranging from enormous static metal sculptures, to mobiles big and small, metal jewellery, drawings and paintings. He was born in America in 1898 , and died in 1976. So why had he donated this enormous, and no doubt valuable, sculpture to a tiny village on the River Indre in France? I learned that he was invited here by another American sculptor Jean Davis, and fell in love with the area, living and working here between 1955 and 1978. We discovered his house and workshop, overlooking the River Indre , not ten minutes walk away from our gîte, at Basse Chevrière, near Saché.

Calder's workshop.
Calder's workshop.
Alexander Calder's house 1955-1976
Alexander Calder's house 1955-1976

Calder's stone built workshop lies just over the road from his house, on the banks of the river.

But Alexander Calder was not the only artist to be artistically inspired in this pastoral landscape. Many years ago the writer Balzac lived close by. Moreover, as we were being shown around Le Manoir de Vonnes by our gîte host, I spotted some interesting sculptures. It was then that I discovered that they had been created by Florence de Cacqueray, his wife , whose home is this beautiful Manor. Bronze figures of children, elegant dancers, and a bust of Balzac, grace the rooms. Perhaps my favourite is a bronze of a mother and child , entitled Offrande which Florence tells me has reached its limit of twelve permitted castings.

Offrande
Offrande
Offrande
Offrande

These sculptures seem to originate in a joy for life and movement. Children balancing on a log or flying kites, and elegant dancers. Images of motherhood, love and melancholy are touching and emotional. So different from the abstract sculptures of Alexander Calder, they strike a chord with me.

Trois danseuses
Trois danseuses
Chef d'Orchestre
Chef d'Orchestre
Children playing on a log
Children playing on a log
Tendresse
Tendresse
Danseuse Equilibre
Danseuse Equilibre

The next exhibition of Florence's work will be held next month in Normandy . She kindly unpacked a work that will be transported there to show me. It features three children flying kites. Her work is not only full of joie de vivre, it is very humane.

Florence de Cacqueray(Flo d'Em)