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My French Life: Visiting the Museum, Berck-sur-Mer

 Painting by Tattegrain, The Good Life France

At the weekend I decided to go and check out the museum in the town of Berck-sur-Mer on the Opal Coast.

I knew it wasn’t a big museum but I’d read that Venetian glass artist Vittorio Costantini had an exhibition there and I knew that they had paintings by my favourite local artist Francis Tattegrain whose granddaughter bequeathed many of his drawings, prints and words to the museum a few years ago.

Actually it was a lovely little museum!

The collections are based in the 19th Century Gendarmerie (police station) in Rue de l’Impératrice and it’s an eclectic lot. Some fabulous glass sculptures, ancient burial ground artefacts, paintings from the ‘Berck School’ of painters, furniture from 19th Century fishermen’s cottages and bit and pieces of pottery – some of which is apparently very important and dates back to the several centuries B.C.and was found in rare burial tombs in the area.

The Vittorio Costantini display was excellent – how anyone can make something so delicate and complex from molten glass is beyond me. Luckily there was a video on hand demonstrating the art so I know how he does it technically – but it’s still amazing.

Amazingly life-like glass bees, Vittorio Costantini


There were also some glass sculptures by various artists which I absolutely loved – weird, quirky and very clever or hugely ornate and fabulously carved.

My favourite pieces though were the Tattegrain paintings. I’ve seen plenty before at the Chateau Musée de Boulogne but this collection was different. There were working drawings, advertisement boards he’d designed to showcase local businesses and some absolutely glorious, huge, dramatic oil paintings which just draw your eyes to the face of the old fishermen that he specialised in painting.

Amazingly life-like glass bees, Vittorio Costantini

The Opal Coast is known for its quality of light – plenty of very famous painters have been drawn to the area because of it including JM Turner. In the 19th Century Berck was popular with artists such as Manet, whose painting of the beach there is now in the Musée d’Orsay. Empress Eugene inaugurated the Maritime Hospital there in 1869 and the town built up its reputation as a popular holiday destination when the railways made the journey from Paris possible in just 3 hours.

Actually – it’s still a popular destination – there are plenty of really nice restaurants and bars, lots of chocolate shops, charcuteries and patisseries and even a casino (based in the old railway station building).

I like the museum – and for the price of €3.50 you also get entry to several other local museums in Etaples-sur-Mer, Montreuil-sur-Mer and Le Touquet-Paris-Plage – so that’s my weekends sorted out for the next couple of months!

Berck-Sur-Mer Museum, 60 Rue de l’Impératrice, Berck Sur Mer 62600 www.2p2m.org

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