The Musée Cévenol in le Vigan held an exhibition from summer 2021-2022 in memory of the work done during the Second World War to hide and protect works of art.
At the start of the war, staff, students and other volunteers packed up the treasures in the Louvre and carried them into hiding, using a flotilla of over 200 requisitioned vehicles. Over 3000 works of art remained hidden throughout the war, often moved from chateau to chateau to avoid being discovered by the Nazis.
This rescue operation was masterminded by a man called Jacques Jaujard, aided by three museum curators, of who one was André Chamson an archivist and writer. He and his wife, Lucie Mazauric, also a museum curator and writer, were both Cévenols, from our département, as is their daughter, Fréderique Hébrard, a writer and actress.
It was because of the links this family Chamson-Mazauric-Hébrard had with the southern Cévennes that the Musée Cévenol in le Vigan opened its amazing exhibition, Le Louvre en Voyage. Sadly it finishes at the end of June 2022.
Dans Les Murs. The first part of the exhibition, within the museum, tells the story of the travels of these works of art, recounted by Lucie Mazauric, in her book Ma vie de châteaux. Her daughter, Fréderique, recounts these travels from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl, travelling with her parents.
Hors les murs. Perhaps the most dramatic and moving part of the exhibition is the collection of full size reproductions of over 70 of these pictures, scattered round the communes of the Pays Viganais,Val d’Aigoual and neighbouring communes.
Rather late in the day I am trying to visit as many of these as possible before the exhibition ends. This is partly a pilgrimage to honour the work of those who saved these works from the Nazis, but also a chance to look at a wide range of pictures (albeit reproductions), many of which I might just have swept past in the Louvre itself, preferring instead to go to my own preferences.
In their own leaflet, the Musée has organised these paintings by broad categories, tracing mainly French art from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century, but also some Italian and Northern European painters.
I have chosen to present them by commune. Finding the pictures was often quite a challenge, as locals often did not know of theme and there were no signposts. I have managed all apart two two physically inaccessible to me, one which is no longer exhibited (damaged by building work) and one I could not find.
Completing this collection of photos, including labelling and commenting on them, is still work in progress