Talks

The Making of the Riviera – People and Places
by Julian Halsby

Date: Thursday 4 March 2021

The Riviera became the centre for artists, writers, politicians, musicians and architects as well as the super-rich between 1918 and 1939. I examine their gilded existence

The Making of the Riviera – People and Places
The Making of the Riviera – People and Places

Until the First World War the Riviera was a place where the elderly and ill would stay to avoid the worst of the winter. They stayed in conventional hotels and pensions which all closed from Easter until the autumn.

After 1918 this all changed. The Riviera became the place for the young and rich to go to enjoy the heat of summer. Le Train Bleu whisked them from Paris overnight to Cannes and Nice where they could stay in newly built luxury hotels or in the magnificent villas of the super-rich. This lecture is about the places and people who created the Riviera.

Coco Chanel created the new fashions for summer on the Riviera and her villa ‘La Pausa’ became a centre for artists and designers. Picasso,  Matisse, Cocteau, Kisling and many others moved south to paint while architects such as Barry Dierks and Eric Sawyer, Eileen Grey, and Mallet Stevens created sleek white villas in the International Style for the wealthy to enjoy.

The Riviera became popular with Americans – Scott Fitzgerald, Gerald Murphy and Ernest Hemingway all helped create the myth of the Riviera while Somerset Maugham, Doris Castlerosse, Cecil Beaton, Cole Porter, Maxine Elliot, Winston Churchill, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor could all be found enjoying the extravagance of summer in the south of France.

The Second World War put an abrupt end to this Paradise which has since regained its popularity but never its inter-war glamour.

Julian Halsby is an art historian, critic, lecturer and painter. He studied History of Art at Cambridge University and later taught at a London art college where he became Senior Lecturer and Head of Department.

He has written 7 books and innumerable articles. One of his most successful books is ‘Venice, The Artists’ Vision’ which explores the life and work of British and American artists in Venice from 1815. He has also published ‘The Dictionary of Scottish Painters’, now in its 4th edition, biographies of the artist Diana Armfield RA and of David Wolfers, the influential post-war art dealer and owner of the New Grafton Gallery.

Julian is a member of the International Association of Art Critics and The Critics Circle. He is also a practising painter, an elected member of the Royal Society of British Artists.

One of his main interests is the cultural life of France from 1850 until the 1940 and this lecture examines the fascinating story of how The Riviera was developed after 1918 and how it became, between the Wars, an important international meeting place of artists, writers, politicians, collectors and designers.

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