A study of Jaques Majorelle by filmmaker Erin
I arrived early to a gathering line, people had their tickets in hand, eager to step through the wooden doors that lead to Marrakesh's most popular tourist spot: The Majorelle Garden.
I waited too, sceptically. Surely the sheer number of tourists that visit this tranquil garden expunge the intention of what is meant to be – an escape from the bustling city?
I arrived early to a gathering line, people had their tickets in hand, eager to step through the wooden doors that lead to Marrakesh's most popular tourist spot: The Majorelle Garden. I waited too, sceptically. Surely the sheer number of tourists that visit this tranquil garden expunge the intention of what is meant to be – an escape from the bustling city?
But as I handed in my ticket, and weaved through all number of lush plant and alien cacti species – even though the murmur of the swelling crowd was growing – I felt it.
It's in the details; the hanging vines, the pools of lazy koi fish and curious turtles; and the vibrancy of the Cubist villa’s blue that sits in odd, contrasting harmony with its surrounds.
I could not help but be intrigued by the villa’s creator Jacques Majorelle, a French Orientalist artist from the mid 1900’s. I brought his biography An Unattainable Dream written by Chantal Destrez.
Majorelle was captivated by Morocco, a number of his works depict the busy Souks of Marrakesh and the mud-clad Kasbahs that rise among the Atlas Mountains, little man-made hills complimenting nature’s more immense peaks.
“The Challenges facing an artist who has decided to study aspects of the High Atlas are obviously not the same as facing an artist who plants his easal before a Breton or Provencal landscape…one must organise an entire caravan; find tents, mules, interpreter and reliable people to serve as escort. Once these difficulties have been addressed, you start on the journey, and immediately situations arise that you laugh about later, but at the time are notalways amusing and which I had the pleasure of reading about in the letters sent on a daily basis from Jacques Majorelle to his father.”
The Tharaud brothers April 8th 1922
These tales of off road expeditions undertaken to achieve his prolific collection of pieces are a fascinating read. Jacques’ technique of grounding minerals like gold, sliver and bronze into dust and then apply as highlights to his works gives them a glowing quality; I long to them in person.
Pouring over the images within this book, I pause on a vista that triggers a sense of familiarity in me, I saw this vista in our travels - through these very mountain ranges, now carved with roads – it makes me pick up a pencil and begin to sketch, something I haven't done in a long time.
Jacques is perhaps less known for his contribution to the decorative arts. He and his wife Andrée worked alongside local artisans and craftsman creating intricate silk embroidered leather pieces for the Parisian market in the very gardens I toured. Reading this connects with something more personal – it reminds me of our stay in Azrou and in Oumnas with the all-female run tapestry and glassware collectives. Artists working with artisans, all in pursuit of the same goal, to ensure their work reaches a wider audience but more than this - help these immensely talented women receive real wages for their skilled craftsmanship.
There are connections everywhere. Connections in what we see, read, and experience, all tying us back to one another, so long as we are willing to see them.
“We were seduced by this oasis where colours used by Matisse were mixed with those of nature…and when we heard that the garden was to be sold and replaced by a hotel, we did everything we could to stop that project from happening.”