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!