Springtime in Essoyes (2019)

April 18, 2019 at 11:21 am Leave a comment


Essoyes in Champagne

Essoyes in spring. Photo by Janet Hulstrand

Spring has arrived! Wildflowers are springing up everywhere, and the fields of rapeseed are in bloom. (The French word for this grain, which is used to make canola oil, is colza. I much prefer this word, and I propose that we adopt it into English.)

Last week a cold snap forced vignerons in Champagne as well as in other parts of northern France to take extraordinary measures to protect their grapes in this delicate period of their development. We all hope the weather will stay mild now so that the grapes can thrive…

Last week I had the pleasure of returning to the Maison Renoir, the family home that was a beloved place of relaxation and retreat for the Renoir family for many years, and which was restored and opened to the public in 2017.

The home has been lovingly restored and “staged” in such a way as to give the impression that the family has simply stepped outside for a leisurely stroll around the town in the early 1900s.

With the opening of the home to the public two years ago, the village has also been able, for the first time, to offer visitors to Essoyes the pleasure of seeing original Renoir works of art. Each summer since 2017, collections from museums in France have loaned works, and they have been on display to visitors in the room that was previously the family’s dining room, and is now able to display artwork in museum conditions.

This year it looks as though several works of art may make the long journey from the United States to be shown here during the summer months. We don’t know yet which works will be on loan, or exactly when they will arrive. So you’ll have to just stay tuned for more about that.

In the meantime visitors to Essoyes can enjoy a lovely collection of etchings, mostly by Renoir; but there is also a portrait by Conrad Slade, an etching of Renoir by Pierre Bonnard, and a note written by Renoir to the mayor of Troyes that is in itself a work of art.

Letter to the Mayor of Troyes (Renoir 1907)

Letter to the Mayor of Troyes (1907). Photo by Janet Hulstrand.

An exciting calendar of special events is being planned to take place in and around Essoyes this year, in recognition of the centenary of the death of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. In particular, anyone who can be here July 6-7 will have the great pleasure of experiencing Essoyes à la Belle Epoque. I was lucky to be here when the village presented an elaborate village-wide “reenactment” for the first time, in 2017. Here’s my report of that wonderful event.

colza in bloom

Fields of colza in bloom…springtime in Essoyes! Photo by Janet Hulstrand.

I’d like to close with a note of relief and deep gratitude that despite the terrible destruction that occurred in the fire at Notre Dame de Paris earlier this week–which touched (and broke!) the hearts of people around the world–thanks to the incredibly brave and brilliant work of 500 firefighters in Paris, the main structure has survived, and the process of planning for the repair of the cathedral is already underway.

Dare I say a Hallelujah for that?

To me it seems apt, especially during Holy Week…

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 teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” for the City University of New York, and her next writing workshop will be held in Paris this summer. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You. She is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “A Long Way from Iowa.” 



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

The Fire at Notre Dame Summer in Essoyes: Vernissage a la Maison Renoir

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