A world class gallery close to Chamonix: Fondation Pierre Gianadda

Chamonix, surrounded by spectacular scenery,  amazing people and athletes is also an unexpectedly good starting point for seeing inspiring art.About 40 minutes drive away is The Pierre Giannada in Martigny which puts on regular exhibitions and also has an interesting permanent collection of paintings and sculptures (Van Gogh, Renoir Henry Moore)

It’s a breath taking drive from Chamonix over the Col des Montets and the Col de Forclaz, with an impressive switchback through the vinyards down to Martigny.  The drive is worth it in itself.

This September I visited Le mythe de la couleur which is running until the 25th November.jawa

It is from a private collection, and I found just the story behind it moving.  The owner, Merzbacher has up until now only anonymously shown his collection. Apparently, this is the first time he has ‘come out’ publicly that he is the man behind it. Putting aside all questions of how a single person could own just so many incredible pieces, he remains humble: ‘I just collected work I liked’  he says. It’s believable.

As a private collection it really came together for me: the whole is much more than the sum of the parts, but that sounds ridiculous when we are talking Van Gogh,  Picasso, Kandinsky. Maybe it’s the hint that we wouldn’t have seen this if Merzbacher had perished like his parents in the holocaust.

This exhibition definitely ‘filled the well’ for me:  I do need to keep being inspired for visual work.

These are my brief notes that I took as I walked around the exhibition, my personal reactions. You will find nothing academic here and the ‘photography’ is really just visual notetaking from my iphone….

There are many landscapes in the collection but the number of great poses of people stood out for me.


Modigliani Amadeo Jeanne Herbuterne, 1918. I love the way she is holding her head. Feel like taking this pose into a    skier portrait.  This was my favourite of the whole exhibition.





 Alexei Von Jawlensky Mystischer Knopf Madchenkopf 1917. Nice way of doing a face :o)

 Picasso Le Couple (les miserables)

lesmisFrau mit rotem Hahn, 1941, Great pose and face again

In this picture another theme came out for me…. am going to play with  using black outline again too

Use of black

Max Beckmann, Rote tulipen and Feuerlilien 1935

Stilleben mit roten Rosen und Butchy 1942


…..again on black – great still lives

Maurice de Vlaminick, Vue de Chatou …. Use the idea of a black background colours.

Frau mit Schlange (schlangebeschworerin) 1940Great pose, face and use of black. Combines all things for me!

f miit schlange


But the exhibition is billed as the colour myth, and it didn’t disappoint there at all. Half close your eyes at any point in the room and that’s the impact.

Brigit Riley 1997 Harmony in Rose









Wassily kandinski Herbstlandschaft mit booten 1908.   I want to use these colours for ski picture.

Berglandschaft mit dorf 1:  Great sunset colour scheme









Emile Nolde 1930 -1935

Sonnenblumen and klatschmohn und lupinen – good for mono prints

Other Pictures to look out for:

Van Gogh
Pelouse ensoleillee
Jardin publique de la place Lamartine 1888

1904  Max Bill

Formation eines kerns aus vier durchdringenden farben 1980

good checks! – can just see this on a ski jacket design c2012….

How to get there:

The beautiful drive from Chamonix takes about 40 minutes.

The train ride is lovely too (and goes through an entire hidden valley not accessible from the Chamonix Martigny road). This is not currently running as the line is being updated. But once its running again there are often offers for discount on joint train and gallery entry, so ask.

Running to 25th November

Next up Sam Szafran 7 December – simply titled ‘50 years of painting’.  I will be there!

Amusing Children

Here are some venues that allow parents to chill a bit while the fun is taken care of. The activities will be able to enjoyed at a pace chosen by each child. Bored and tired children are not at all Amusing!

The Chamonix valley is very lucky to have some really sweet play areas in natural settings offering a cool place for youngsters to tear about, splash and explore. But this is not enough. To make it onto this list the places must also be suitable for us big people to be happy to hangout in too.

The Mare á Têtard (Tadpole Pond) Argentière.

This forest clearing allows children to create their own fun. It’s genius is it’s simplicity.

1 forest clearing + 1 stream + 2 ponds + some lawns = almost anything.

Bring a picnic, let the youngsters run around for a bit, you find a bench or a patch of grass and soak up some rays and gaze at the Aiguilles Rouges above Argentiere or the extensive and tranquil Meleze forest.

There are a few playground items like slides and climbing frames to make kids think they want to go there but soon they will be building dams or roly-polying down a grass slope. Despite the name we have never spotted any tadpoles.

Access can be from the Grands Montets car park. Walk up the track towards the Crèmerie du Glacier then turn left on the Petit Balcon in the Le Tour direction. After crossing the river (bridge) you will see the play area on your left through the trees. 10 minutes.

Alternatively from the Argentière village square follow the road over the river, past the church through the old village. Near the end of the road park by the passage under the railway line. Take the track going through the arch and turn right in another 20m. Follow this path to a 5-way junction and the play area is just infront of you. 4 minutes.

Paradise des Praz, Les Praz.

This place is similar to Mare a Têtard only bigger and with a snack hut.

A magical setting in a mature forest of conifers with a few open lawns. There are plenty of things set up to play on, a little tyrolean, scramble nets, sand pits with digging toys, tethered canoe etc. There are rocks to scramble over and a little stable. Pony rides are available. Despite being popular on a hot day there are plenty tables and deckchairs. It is ok to bring along your own snacks.

And it would not be Paradise without a hut selling crêpes, ice cream and drinks. We have only one problem: getting the children to leave.

Leave your car in the golf course parking. Follow the river upstream, on the netting protected (from golf balls) path. It is about 4 minutes to the play area.

In touch with the inner chimp.

Up and down the valley you can find 5 tree adventure centres. Some can offer routes for some children but there is one standout site for little and medium sized kids: Kid Aventure. The safety system is fool proof, meaning that children as young as 2, if they meet the minimum height, can be simian heros too. With wires and bridges are just high enough to let the participants feel like they are the bravest people in the world without you needing a telephoto lens to take pictures.

It is right next to the Chavants lake, themed botanical trail and a sunny lawn. A bread and sandwich shop and cafe are just around the corner. The price is €16 per person.

And if Nico’s airstream pizza wagon is open we recommend his pizzas.

To get to the car park head to Les Houches, then follow signs to the Prarion Telecabine (ski lift.) The car park is well signposted. The start is from the wooden hut at the head of the lake.

Art Courses

Check out our in-house  art courses for Children here too.

Any comments or questions? get in touch with us here:


Via Corda Alpina Chamonix

An accessible gem, why is this not more well known?

Having just completed this long climb with a mixed ability group we want to let more people know about it.

What is it?

It is a long climb up a rocky ridge that combines a bit of very easy rock climbing, hiking and elements of mountaineering. The views are great over to the Aiguilles Rouges, into the gorge at the end of the Mer de Glace, over Chamonix town and up theDrus cliff faces. It tops out at a snack hut and has an easy walk down.

Who can do it?

Our party included a 10 year old who has done a bit of rock climbing but is not keen on hiking and a keen hiker with next to no climbing experience. There was also an experienced mountaineer and climber in our party of 5. Everyone had a fantastic trip taking enjoyment from different aspects of the experience.

The length, 2-3 hours for an experienced and fit group or it could be a whole day out if the party has members : young,inexperienced or lacking endurance. So almost anyone who can do a day of moderate hiking and is willing to go for it could do it.

What do I need?

Some basic climbing kit, harnesses, rope, 7-10 quickdraws, helmet. We used climbing shoes, which for a long route can be a bit sore, hiking boots, alpine boots or even training shoes could be used.

Snacks and water.


Anybody leading this climb must be able to lead 3c with long runouts.

If you are not familiar with even one term or  item on the above list, get a professional to lead your group. This could either be a guide or climbing instructor for this sort of route. Please contact us here for recommendations.

Doing it in the wet or to soon after rain will make it significantly more challenging so pick good weather.