British artist inspires Chinese light show in France

Artist's work the inspiration for a scene at Chinese Festival des Lanternes in southwest France

A British artist’s painting was the inspiration for one of the themes at a Chinese Festival in southwest France.

The Festival des Lanternes, now in its third year, is the biggest festival of Chinese culture in France.

Its four-hectare 'city of light' opened in early December, and runs until January 31, 2020. It features more than 1,500 lit sculptures on themes including the Great Wall of China, a huge china teapot and the Yunnan mountains. The centrepiece is an 18m seated Buddha.

Last year's festival attracted more than 370,000 visitors to the small winemaking town of Gaillac, Tarn.

The painting which inspired Chinese artists to create one of the scenes, a busy harbour, is The Port of Gaillac 1863, painted by Gordon Frickers.
It is on permanent display in a local museum, the Musée du Vin Invincible Vigneron.

The Port of Gaillac 1863, which inspired the lantern scene

Mr Frickers researched and created the painting when he lived in the area. It was commissioned for the museum, and he worked on it in the foyer of the museum so people could watch him at work.

It depicts a period when Gaillac was at the height of its activity as a river port on the Tarn sending wine, charcoal, timber and coloured dies for Napoleon’s soldiers’ uniforms down river. Some 200 river boats, or gabarres as they were known, were registered in 1863, the date of the painting, a year before the town's rail link to Toulouse started its decline.

Mr Frickers received an invitation to the opening ceremony from the Maire of Gaillac with pride: “I am touched and honoured to be invited and as far as I know, I am the only Englishman and perhaps the only European artist ever to be invited. The reason I am told, my painting has caused quite a stir and inspired the Chinese artists.”

Gordon Fricker working on Port of Gaillac 1863

Mr Frickers lives in southern Brittany now, but says he likes coming back to the Tarn. He started his career specialising in marine paintings, but is nowworking on a series depicting famous wine villages of France. He is one of a few artists to be invited to exhibit at the European Parliament, Brussels.

The links between the wine producing town in the Tarn and China began in the 19th century when an astronomer and historian, Antoine Gaubil, who was born in Gaillac, travelled to China. Later the town became twinned with Zigong in the Sichuan province, which has its own Lantern Festival, and chose Gaillac for its first representation in Europe.

The Festival des Lanternes Fééries de Chine is openevery evening from 18-23.00. Tickets are from €16 for children and you can reserve online at festivaldeslanternes-gaillac.fr

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