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Making Paradise - Art, Modernity and the Myth of the Riviera

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By Kenneth E Silver.MIT Press, 2001. 191pp. £20.50

Can serious art be made in a place devoted to pleasure? The question runs through this examination of a region that, while famed for hedonism, saw a tremendous flowering of the visual arts for nearly a century, writes Ruth Slavid .

Art and the Riviera have had a symbiotic relationship.While artists have enjoyed the gentle climate, strong light and freedom from city stresses, they have provided intellectual credibility. If it were just sun, sea and casinos, the Riviera would not enjoy the chic gifted by Matisse and Chagall in Nice, Picasso at Antibes, Cocteau in Villefranche and - stretching the geographical boundaries - Le Corbusier at Le Pradet and Marseilles.

Silver makes clear how deliberately artificial the world the artists inhabited was.

We see an idealised place of repose in Signac's Au Temps d'Harmonie , luxurious living from Gerald Murphy, and the ennui of the beach from Jean Dubuffet.Some painters incorporated sand in their paintings, while Le Corbusier used local stone, but otherwise the artists kept the reality of their environment at a distance. More recently the Riviera has produced its own artists - most famously Yves Klein - in the 'Ecole de Nice', who described themselves as 'permanently on vacation'.

Silver touches only lightly on architecture but gives a fascinating view of the interaction between place and creativity - and a snapshot of a region that exerts a strong attraction in the midst of winter.

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