During my last visit to the Boussac Tourist Office, I picked up a flyer advertising an art expo at Prébenoit Abbey. It was intriguingly entitled ‘Mer et Tulipes’ (sea and tulips), but it was only a couple of days later that I looked at it properly. And suddenly the artist’s name leapt out at me – Frédéric Fortanier. We know Frédéric! He and his lovely family stayed at our gîte three times while they were renovating their new home at nearby La Cellette. And we’d seen him just a couple of days ago, and he was too modest to mention that his art was on display.
So, I leapt in the car, together with Caiti, and we drove off to Prébenoît Abbey. Now, this is an interesting place. Its name has come from Pré Béni – blessed field. It was established in the twelfth century, in the middle of a dense forest that was mentioned in various old charters. The monks who founded it, craved real hardship and poverty – a totally virtuous monastic life. They built the abbey and cultivated crops and vegetables in the surrounding land that they cleared. They fished in the stream and raised animals too. Jean de Brosse, who restored Boussac Castle, is buried there. The last monk died in the 1790s, and the local villagers used the stone from some of the buildings for their houses. However, in the late twentienth century, the decision was made to restore the place to its former glory, an ongoing operation. But the place has come to life again with exhibitions, such as Frédéric’s, guided visits and other events going on there.
Back to Frédéric’s art. It’s wonderful. As you walk into the display room in the abbey, the pictures jump out at you from the walls. They’re vibrantly colourful and dramatic. I’d never have thought tulips could be so exciting! There were so many varied styles of painting too. Frédéric explained that he liked to try out different ideas and techniques. But there’s nearly always purple there somewhere. I remarked on this, because I love the colour purple, and it turns out Frédéric does too.
The largest painting was a triptych of the sea. This was both soothing and exciting to look at. Again, there were so many colours intermingled – black, shades of blue, aquamarine, white, greens, and of course, purple. This painting is heading to an exhibition in Florence soon. Frédéric has numerous other displays coming up in Holland, other parts of France, London and Italy. I’m not surprised. These are paintings by a very talented artist that are well worth seeing.
Frédéric is enthusiastic about his art, and you can see his enjoyment in the paintings. They are buoyant and optimistic, like the artist himself.
The exhibition continues from 14th to 17th July at the Abbey, from 15h to 19h. If you can possibly go, then do. He has a website here. Treat yourself and have a browse.
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