I was wandering around the Courtauld Gallery, admiring all the artistic pieces placed in every wall of every room. As I traversed each floor, one of them immediately caught my eye.
There was something that immediately struck out about this painting. It was of a street surrounded by buildings on each side and definitely situated in France. The sheer volume of French flags that adorned this piece was astounding. I liked the plastered patriotism the likes of which we tend not to see here unless there’s a royal occasion being celebrated. And actually in this painting, it pretty much was also a nation-wide celebration. ‘Bastille Day’, the French Revolution, celebrated every July 14th was depicted here in an aptly titled “July 14 at Le Havre” by its painter Raoul Dufy. Although recently the event has been reason for tragedy, the excitement and elation felt by attendees is beautifully expressed with the bright colours.
I wonder why there aren’t that many people wandering the streets. I would’ve thought it would be bustling to the brim. Perhaps they are out celebrating elsewhere, or perhaps due to it being fairly early in the day they will be out soon.
According to the information card, Le Drapeau Français has been painted no less than twelve times in this vertical creation. It doesn’t seem that many, but once hearing of the grand total, you find yourself eagerly locating each one.
That’s what I find so remarkable. Everyone will focus on a particular flag, one that takes his or her fancy. Whether it be attached to the streetlights, draped across the street, portrait, vertical or my favourite the diagonal one at centre-bottom because it feels as though a flag-bearer is waving it across the sky.
This portrait reminds me of performing in a school production of Les Mis. It’s the end of the first half. We are ending on the massive number that is ‘One Day More.’ I (my character) had been given the incredible honour of waving the flag as we all gather on stage towards the end of the piece; ‘tomorrow is the judgement day’.
The song is certainly a showstopper and having sat on a bench mesmerised at this piece for at least fifteen minutes, I can say Dufy’s painting is too.
I only hope Raoul Dufy was filled with such passion whilst painting these expressive strokes.