"Les nuages... Là-bas… Les merveilleux nuages"

from October 10, 2009 to January 24, 2010

In 1859, Eugène Boudin exhibited for the first time at the Salon de Paris with an artwork that immediately caught the attention of Charles Baudelaire. But the poet lavished much more praise on the small sky studies that he saw in the young painter's studio, describing them as "the prodigious magic of air and water". Artists' interest in clouds grew stronger in the early 19th century with the major advances in meteorology, particularly under the impetus of Luke Howard who was the first to attempt a classification of clouds (1803). Boudin thus carried on the tradition, but he was undoubtedly the last of his generation to show such longstanding fascination for the subject, returning to it time and time again throughout his life.

1859 was also the year that newly invented photography made its debut at the Salon. Like the painters, the photographers were enthralled by clouds, but technical difficulties forced them to use workarounds in an attempt to capture their elusive values.

The second part of the exhibition shows how contemporary photographers have built upon the achievements made in the 19th century. Clouds remained an inherent and structuring feature of the landscape, one for which artists devised a genuine typology as they invented a new iconography (solitary, dark and menacing, etc.). But this objective look also shifted to a formalist approach with the cloud considered as "object-matter". Under the impetus of Alfred Stieglitz, and his 1923 "Equivalents" of cloud photographs, the cloud gained a formal and poetic autonomy that the Surrealists then appropriated, opening new avenues for all sorts of playful experimentation by artists such as Gilbert Garcin, ParkeHarrisson and Vick Muniz. Some, more ironic (Pierre et Gilles), didn't hesitate to populate the sky with new angelic figures, thus proposing a re-mystification of the sky that is more postmodern than truly spiritual.