The region of Nord-Pas de Calais offers a fabulous range of art and cultural collections despite being one of the smallest regions of France.
Its not just the bigger towns though that boast a wealth of fine paintings, sculptures and museum collections – almost every town has its own museum and we’ve put together a list of our favourite smaller collections in the region:
Art in Boulogne-sur-Mer
Château Musee de Boulogne-Sur-Mer – Boulogne Castle museum. A wonderfully eclectic set of exhibitions of art and objects from a disparate group of cultures from around the world. Of archaeological note is a superb collection of funerary objects from Ancient Egypt. The museum is home to the first collection in provincial France of ancient ceramics from Greece and Italy. These collections are housed in a medieval castle that was built on the remains of Roman walls. There are exhibitions throughout the year and in the summer months free musical concerts on the terrace of the Châtea (click on the link to the website above for more details).
Art and culture in Dunkirk
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Dunkerque. Dunkirk’s Museum of Fine Arts has a rich collection of old masters from the 18th century, many of the paintings were seized during the French Revolution, mostly from the Abbey of Saint-Winoc at nearby Bergues, so the collection’s emphasis is on art from Northern Europe – especially Flemish, Dutch, and French. There is also a collection of over 20,000 pieces of natural history, minerals, stuffed animals, etc., and over 4000 objects from continents worldwide.
FRAC Contemporary Art Collection, Dunkerque. The FRAC (Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain) houses regionally assembled public collections of contemporary art. These collections are conserved, archived and presented to the public through on site exhibitions and by loans to both galleries and museums. The North region FRAC is located on the site of Dunkirk port in an old boat warehouse called Halle AP2.
More art and culture in Nord-Pas de Calais
Tourcoing Fine Arts Museum now known as Tourcoing MUba Eugene Leroy following a donation by Eugene Jean and Jean-Jacques Leroy and an introspective devoted to the works of Leroy. An unusual mix of contemporary art & old masters. Located in an elegant private mansion of the mid 19th Century with occasional live performances. Works by masters such as Boilly and Rembrandt may be seen cosying up to modern artworks by artists such as Eugene Leroy, some of which were created in situ.
Benoît de Puydt Museum, Bailleul. A collection of Flemish works of art 15th-19th centuries including work by Peter Breughel. Housed in the large bourgeois home that belonged to a wealthy local business man Benoît de Puydt who bequeathed his beloved collection to the city.
The Hazebrouck Museum, Hazebrouk. Housed in a former Augustinian friary, visitors are greeted by 5 giants. The museum has collections of Flemish and Dutch paintings, wonderful examples of gold pieces and French paintings of the 19th Century.
Drawings & Prints Museum, Gravelines (near Dunkirk). A unique collection, this is the only museum of its kind in France, located in the Château arsenal at the heart of Gravelines, the well-preserved old fortifications in the town. 8000 engravings from international and European artists including Arman, Doré, Durer, Léger, Miro and Picasso.
Bergues Municipal Museum. Housed in a 17th century pawnshop built by the Spanish. Mainly Flemish and Dutch works, including Breueghel, Anton Van Dyk and Georges de la Tour housed in the architecturally spectacular Mont-de-Piété
Musée des Beaux-Arts, Valenciennes. The museum of Fine Arts in Valenciennes is located in a fine building dating from the beginning of the 20th century housing an outstanding collection of 17th century Flemish paintings and 19th century French sculpture. The Flemish collection includes religious works by Rubens, Martin de Vos, Caspar de Crayer, Jansens, and Jordaens. There is also a display of spectacular Gallo-Roman paintings of medieval effigies only recently discovered in nearby Famars.
Douai Chartreuse Museum. Collection of mainly medieval religious art,housed in an old convent, an impressive Flemish style building from 1559. After being restored following damage sustained in both World Wars (during which part of the collection was destroyed) the museum has an eclectic collection. Originally established with artworks seized from churches and monasteries. It is now more diversified thanks to numerous donations and now includes natural history objets, a spectacular collection of 25000 photographic plates. There are medieval Gothic masterpieces, including two paintings by the Douaisien Jean Bellegambe and works by Rodin, Renoir, Pissaro and Rubens as well as by more modern artists such as Daniel Buren.It is also the home of the town’s aquarium.
Musée Municipal, Berck. Founded in 1979 in the town’s picturesque old Gendarmerie built at the end of the 19th century by Emile Lavezzari. Artists whose work is displayed include Marinus Chambon, Eugène Chigot, Jan Lavezzari, Ludovic Lepic, Charles Roussel , Francis Tattegrain, and Eugène Trigoulet. The Museum website says that the Merovingian jewellery presented is among the finest ever exhibited.