Essoyes à la Belle Epoque…a magnificent success!

July 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

In a way the preparations have been underway for the past five years.

In another way, depending largely upon one’s level of involvement, I suppose, it’s “only” been for the past year or so.

In any case, this weekend, as part of the department-wide Year of Renoir, the village of Essoyes hosted a weekend-long return to the year 1900—to celebrate and showcase what Essoyes was like in the height of the period when Renoir and his family would come to the village, to paysanner (enjoy the countryside).

Essoyes is a very small town (population 750) but there is nothing modest about the celebration they hosted over the past two days. Two days of joyous celebration included tableaux vivants of Renoir paintings; theatrical presentations of a 1900 wedding, and an evening in a guinguette; horse-drawn wagons in the streets, and a turn-of-the-century style carousel; and a c. 1900 classroom in which schoolchildren could test their proficiency by taking a c. 1900 exam.

This extravagant weekend was extraordinarily well planned and well executed. It was visually beautiful, musically vibrant and diverse, and delightfully educational.

It was also a wonderful blend of the homegrown—with many period costumes and hats created, and worn, by the people of the town—and the professional, with two associations providing the talent that re-enacted life in this small French town at the turn of the twentieth century.

Perhaps it was this element more than anything else–volunteer Essoyens and Essoyennes enthusiastically participating in the festivities–that was responsible for exuding a genuine—and infectious–joie de vivre. The people of Essoyes have spent months lending their time and talents to this effort, and on this gloriously beautiful summer weekend, it all came together in such a beautiful way.

And this weekend you could see that after all that work, they were having the time of their lives!

At the heart of it all, of course, is the newly-restored and now open to the public Renoir family home. But there were so many additional activities filling the streets, the riverbanks, the chateau, and the square in front of the mairie that I would not be surprised if many of the people who came this weekend might have gone away without even having seen the inside of the home at all—and saving that for another time.

I will write more about all of this later, but for now I just wanted to say: Essoyes’s special belle époque weekend is over, but the Year of Renoir is emphatically not. The Renoir family home is still there—with three original Renoir works of art on loan and on display through September 24. Next weekend (July 28-29)  Les rencontres cinéma will feature cinéma en pleine aire in Essoyes, in partnership with the Maison pour Tous of nearby Landreville. And in Troyes, at the Museum of Modern Art, Un autre Renoir, an exhibition devoted to showcasing lesser-known aspects of Renoir’s work, is on display through September 17. There are many more events, both large and small, planned for the rest of the summer and indeed the rest of the year, and local offices of tourism (Essoyes, Troyes, Bar-sur-Seine) will be happy to provide additional information.

I would also like to say, to Monsieur le Maire Alain Cintrat; to Deputy Mayor Philippe Talbot; to the members of the Conseil Municipal; and to all the citizens of Essoyes who have worked so hard for so long to bring about this wonderful weekend of celebration: Félicitations, et Merci!



Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She leads book groups at the American Library in Paris, writing workshops in Essoyes, a village in the Champagne region, and teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” each summer, in Paris, for Queens College, CUNY.


Entry filed under: About Essoyes, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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