From Wednesday 30 October 2019 to Monday 17 February 2020
A retrospective that follows the progress of Jean Giono's written and filmed work, revealing all of its darkness, verve and universality
On the eve of commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Jean Giono (October 2020), the Mucem presents via some 300 works and documents a retrospective that goes far beyond the simplified image of the Provencal writer. Following the progression of his written and filmed work, it reveals his darkness, courage and universality. Giono was a poet who had returned from the mass graves of the First World War and was as committed to describing the depth of evil as to finding its antidotes: creativity, work, pacifism, friendships with painters, nature as a refuge, and escapes into the imaginary.
To flesh out one of the most prolific artists of the 20th century, almost all of his manuscripts, presented here for the first time, enter into a dialogue with many works and documents: family and administrative archives (including those relating to his two incarcerations); items of photographic reportage; press pieces; first editions; annotated books; sound and film interviews, as well as all of the writer's workbooks; films made by him or that he produced and scripted; cinematographic adaptations of his work by Marcel Pagnol and Jean-Paul Rappeneau (not to mention the animated film by Frédéric Back, The Man who planted trees); the naive paintings of the mysterious Charles-Frédéric Brun who inspired him The Deserter; the entirety of his frightening Journal held during the Occupation; and the paintings of his painter friends, including first and foremost Bernard Buffet.
These tangible traces of life and creativity will be doubled up with the symbolic evocation of a matrix experience of the oeuvre entrusted to four contemporary artists. Firstly, there is that of Giono, the simple soldier lost in the maelstrom of war, without which neither the books, the pacifist commitment, the incarcerations, nor the political polemics that punctuate and obscure his progress, logically opens the exhibition with an immersive installation by Jean-Jacques Lebel. Then comes a vision of Provence, far from the folkloric clichés, incarnated via the works of the plastic artist Thu Van Tran and the filmmaker Alessandro Comodin. Finally, the visual artist Clémentine Mélois revisits the library of Giono, this place of freedom and breath, which is at the heart of her life just as much as it is central to the exhibition.
—Curation: Emmanuelle Lambert, writer
—Consultant: Jacques Mény, president of the Société des amis de Giono
—Scenography: Pascal Rodriguez
—Catalogue: a co-publication with éditions Gallimard
As part of the Year of Giono, with the city of Manosque / DLVA
Exhibition at the musée Regards de Provence
« Lucien Jacques, le sourcier de Giono »
From 30 October 2019 to 16 February 2020
—Exhibition curator: Jean-François Chougnet,
—With the support of Jacky Michel, president of the Association des amis de Lucien Jacques
Lucien Jacques (1891-1961) has often been read and seen through his unique friendship with Jean Giono. Although this exhibition – which takes place in parallel with the Mucem’s “Giono” exhibition – cannot totally escape this gaze, it nevertheless intends to show an autonomy of Lucien Jacques’s work.
The exhibition is co-produced by the musée Regards de Provence and the Mucem, with the support of the Association des amis de Lucien Jacques and the Durance-Lubéron-Verdon connorbation (DLVA).
A duo ticket to visit the exhibitions “Giono” and “Lucien Jacques” is available for 11 euros.
Withdrawing from evil (1895-1939)
“Intelligence is to withdraw from evil.”
(Lettre aux paysans sur la pauvreté et la paix, 1938)
When he was conscripted in 1915, Jean Giono was 20 years old. A bank clerk, he left school at the age of 16 to provide financial support for his family that was in difficulty further to the deterioration of his father’s health. He reads a lot, has a passion for poetry and composes short texts. He already loves Élise Maurin, who lives across the street from him in Manosque.
Demobbed in 1919, he resumes his life, to which writing figures ever more prominently. If Giono minimised the horrors of war in his letters to his family (which are also subject to military censorship), his work is full of dark visions, natural disasters and killings that are its metaphor, and this since the beginnings of his career as a writer in 1929, with Colline: Giono the writer was born in the trenches, and he seeks to “withdraw from evil”.
In 1931, he finally publishes his great novel about the war: Le Grand Troupeau, a year before Voyage au bout de la nuit by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, also a veteran of the 1914-1918 war. And so he becomes famous. Committed body and soul to pacifist activism, he also advocates a return to rural life styles that oppose the mechanisation and profit-seeking that has led men to their downfall in what was called “the Great War”. His involvement led to his incarceration in 1939, just after France declares war on Germany.
Return to hell (1940-1945)
At the beginning of the Second World War, Giono, like all those who had fought in the 1914-1918 war, returns to hell. Pacifist activism, the Contadour utopia and the attempts that opened up a new path were swept away by the return of war.
The years of the German occupation of France mark one of the most controversial periods in his life. He remains a prominent figure, participating in some social events in occupied Paris, publishing literary texts in the collaborationist and anti-Semitic press, and lends himself to the game of photographs and interviews. At the same time, he helps people in danger, Jewish people, communists or those who want to avoid the Forced Labour Service.
More than ever, and as will be the case until the end, Giono’s remedies are reading, friendships and escape into the imagination, whether through painting, hard work, especially in his theatre, and the return to authors such as the Latin poet Virgil or the American novelist Herman Melville.
But political reality cannot be denied: at the Liberation, Giono is again placed in detention, suspected of having been a collaborator. The Basse-Alpes sorting commission concludes that “no charges are brought against him”. However, he is blacklisted by the National Writers’ Council in September 1944, and could not publish. The ban is suspended Jean Paulhan, who will go on to publish the beginning of Un roi sans divertissement in 1947. But the suspicion of collaborationism has followed him to this day.
“Works of art in museums” (1946-1970)
After the bitter failure of his political activism, his two incarcerations, and the publication ban that hits him at the time of the Liberation, Giono deserts the subject-matter that was that of his pre-war work and reinvented everything, to return into the light and never to leave it.
From now on, he looks at people as if from afar, from an overhang in time and space (“He was only interested in people as objects of art in museums”, he writes in Le Bonheur fou in 1957). This renewal of his work follows three main paths: that of the Romantic Chronicles, a series of novels and harsh narratives, marked by miscellaneous fact, and whose most emblematic book is Un roi sans divertissement; that of the Cycle of the Horseman, projected in the past, intertwining adventures in Italy and France; and lastly, that of the film industry, which occupies a Giono that is concurrently producer, screenwriter and director.
When he dies at home on the night of 8-9 October, 1970, Giono has become what he had been at the beginning: a prolific and acclaimed writer.
Partners and sponsors
With the support of Mutuelles du Soleil
In association with the association des Amis de Jean Giono.
As part of the Year of Giono 2020