Cathédrales, 1789-1914, un mythe moderne

12 Avril 2014 - 31 Août 2014
Cathédrales, 1789-1914, un mythe moderne

All the information about the exhibition are available on the website

180 masterpieces  - 2 centuries of creation - 60 artists

Goethe, Friedrich, Hugo, Constable, Turner, Corot, Sisley, Pissarro, Monet, Rodin, Redon, Moreau, Marquet, Delaunay, Kupka, Beckmann, Feininger, Chagall, De Staël, Morellet,  Delvoye…

This exhibition project sets out to explore a theme which has never before been addressed: the place of Cathedrals in the artistic imagination and in the national debate, from Goethe and Victor Hugo to World War 1, against the historical background of Franco-German relations. It unites two cities, Rouen and Cologne, each boasting a world-famous cathedral, and two museums, the musée des Beaux-Arts and the Wallraf-Richartz museum, considered to be amongst the most
remarkable in Europe, both for their collections and exhibition programmes. The exhibition presents around 250 works, paintings, objets d’art, photographs and scale-models, covering a century of Franco-German artistic adventures, and is accompanied by an international conference. A second leg is planned for the Wallraf-Richartz museum in Cologne, where the exhibition will open from 26 September 2014 to 18 January 2015.

After several centuries of oblivion, the Gothic cathedral, the quintessential example of mediaeval monumental architecture, enjoyed an unexpected revival in the 19th century, becoming a symbol of national identity for the Monarchy as well as for the Empire or for the Republic. An unchanging reference to the past, it served as a screen onto which not only the religious and the faithful, but also their adversaries, could project their ideas. To this day, the restoration of countless French cathedrals and the completion of Cologne cathedral in the 19th century stand as visible signs of the spirit of the age.
Much less widely known is the role of Gothic cathedrals as a theme for poetry, music, painting, theatre and indeed opera during the 19th century, providing an inexhaustible source of inspiration for large numbers of writers, composers, visual artists and decorators. The sheer number and diversity of painters who immortalised Gothic architectural forms on canvas offer incontrovertible evidence of a fundamental aspect of Franco-German culture, which has never before been the subject of an exhibition.
The most famous example is the series of paintings that Monet devoted to Rouen cathedral, which should be understood not only as a visual experience, but also the product of a long journey towards the appropriation of the monument by the nation.
From this original insight, we will follow the great convection movements that preceded the debate around national heritage in the 19th century, then the reappropriation of the image of cathedrals after Monet and the crystallisation of this motif as a national symbol on both sides of the Rhine, up to the trauma of the bombing of Reims cathedral. The journey concludes with a vision of the modern cathedral through the works of the great names of modern and contemporary art.

The exhibition has received exceptional support from MATMUT, which will enable visitors to enjoy the exhibition free of charge on 14 July, 2014.


CIC NORD OUEST an the Caisse des dépôts et Consignations Haute-Normandie have provided financial support for the general organisation of the exhibition.


The work by Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral The Façade and the Tour d'Albane. Grey Weather, is the subject of a scientific study with a view to its restoration, funded by the Crédit Agricole Normandie Seine.