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Versailles Nuit by Patrick Hourcade: The Nighttime Poetry of the Palace

Within the “earlier than time,” when journey was straightforward and French museums have been crowded with vacationers, I typically caught myself longing to roam the Louvre or Chateau de Versailles at night time, lengthy after the final customer had left, to find the essence of these former royal palaces, the best way kings and queens may need loved them.
I ponder, as I uncover Patrick Hourcade’s most up-to-date exhibition, Versailles Nuit, at Galerie Gradiva, if that’s how he additionally felt on the nights he spent within the Chateau and its gardens.
By his personal admission, Patrick is a affected person man. He must be, since nighttime pictures require perseverance with the intention to catch the proper second, when the rarefied gentle hits simply so. But in addition as a result of, when he launched into this challenge, he accepted that it might take a number of years to place it collectively as a result of Versailles is at all times busy with restoration initiatives, occasions, and filming.
Patrick Hourcade at his exhibition. Picture credit score © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong In his personal “earlier than time,” Patrick Hourcade was the creative director of Vogue Paris, working with photographers like Helmut Newton and Man Bourdin. He additionally labored for Karl Lagerfeld, as curator of his in depth collections and his houses. Since 2010, nonetheless, Patrick has been focusing completely on his personal creative profession, which has come to span not solely pictures but additionally sculpture, design, and scenography.
I meet Patrick on a cold winter day at Galerie Gradiva. We’re launched by an expensive buddy of mine, who has identified him since his first exhibition, La Puissance d’Aimer, on the Chapelle de Saint Louis de la Salpêtrière, the chapel of one of many largest hospitals within the metropolis, again in 2011. It was Patrick’s first present.
Housed in an 18th century constructing, Gradiva is a superb area on Quai Voltaire, overlooking a prestigious neighbor: the Louvre. Shrouded behind scaffolding, I can simply image it eerily empty of everybody save its curators and keepers. Versailles Nuit is an intimate symphony in black and white. If I didn’t know higher, a number of the photos may be mistaken for pastel drawings, their powdery side in contrast to any up to date {photograph} I’ve seen. Flashes of sunshine seem right here and there, serendipitously. As Patrick explains, he used no further lighting to catch the photographs, and no matter luminosity the digicam has captured, it was nearly accidentally.
It’s Hourcade’s third exploration with nighttime pictures. Of two earlier exhibits, Nuit, le Pouvoir de l’Obscur (2015) on the Réfectoire des Cordeliers, a part of the Ecole de Médecine, centered on the idea of nighttime imaginative and prescient, and required a number of months of scientific analysis on the inside workings of the attention.
The second, and possibly essentially the most carefully associated to his latest work at Versailles, befell in 2017. La Nuit Rodin was impressed by a pioneer of pictures, the American Edward Steichen, who got here to Paris at Auguste Rodin’s request in 1908 to {photograph} his famed Balzac portrait at nighttime.

Within the “earlier than time,” when journey was straightforward and French museums have been crowded with vacationers, I typically caught myself longing to roam the Louvre or Chateau de Versailles at night time, lengthy after the final customer had left, to find the essence of these former royal palaces, the best way kings and queens may need loved them.

I ponder, as I uncover Patrick Hourcade’s most up-to-date exhibition, Versailles Nuit, at Galerie Gradiva, if that’s how he additionally felt on the nights he spent within the Chateau and its gardens.

By his personal admission, Patrick is a affected person man. He must be, since nighttime pictures require perseverance with the intention to catch the proper second, when the rarefied gentle hits simply so. But in addition as a result of, when he launched into this challenge, he accepted that it might take a number of years to place it collectively as a result of Versailles is at all times busy with restoration initiatives, occasions, and filming.

Patrick Hourcade at his exhibition. Picture credit score © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

In his personal “earlier than time,” Patrick Hourcade was the creative director of Vogue Paris, working with photographers like Helmut Newton and Man Bourdin. He additionally labored for Karl Lagerfeld, as curator of his in depth collections and his houses. Since 2010, nonetheless, Patrick has been focusing completely on his personal creative profession, which has come to span not solely pictures but additionally sculpture, design, and scenography.

I meet Patrick on a cold winter day at Galerie Gradiva. We’re launched by an expensive buddy of mine, who has identified him since his first exhibition, La Puissance d’Aimer, on the Chapelle de Saint Louis de la Salpêtrière, the chapel of one of many largest hospitals within the metropolis, again in 2011. It was Patrick’s first present.

Housed in an 18th century constructing, Gradiva is a superb area on Quai Voltaire, overlooking a prestigious neighbor: the Louvre. Shrouded behind scaffolding, I can simply image it eerily empty of everybody save its curators and keepers.

Versailles Nuit is an intimate symphony in black and white. If I didn’t know higher, a number of the photos may be mistaken for pastel drawings, their powdery side in contrast to any up to date {photograph} I’ve seen. Flashes of sunshine seem right here and there, serendipitously. As Patrick explains, he used no further lighting to catch the photographs, and no matter luminosity the digicam has captured, it was nearly accidentally.

It’s Hourcade’s third exploration with nighttime pictures. Of two earlier exhibits, Nuit, le Pouvoir de l’Obscur (2015) on the Réfectoire des Cordeliers, a part of the Ecole de Médecine, centered on the idea of nighttime imaginative and prescient, and required a number of months of scientific analysis on the inside workings of the attention.

The second, and possibly essentially the most carefully associated to his latest work at Versailles, befell in 2017. La Nuit Rodin was impressed by a pioneer of pictures, the American Edward Steichen, who got here to Paris at Auguste Rodin’s request in 1908 to {photograph} his famed Balzac portrait at nighttime.

Patrick Hourcade’s Bassin d’Apollon (The Apollon fountain), Versailles. Picture credit score © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

The technical constraints of the medium, nonetheless in its infancy on the time, meant that it took hours for the picture to imprint itself on the glass plate, after which simply as lengthy to be revealed whereas in growth. Rodin was inordinately happy with the outcome, telling Steichen, “Your pictures will make the world perceive my Balzac.”

As Patrick explains the approach for capturing the poetic photos that represent Versailles Nuit, one may be tempted to low cost the outcome, contemplating it too simply obtained because of technological progress, particularly when in comparison with Steichen’s laborious course of.

As a substitute, I really feel a really comparable power behind the endeavors of each photographers. When capturing a body, Patrick goes in opposition to the settings prompt by his digital digicam, like a naughty little one disobeying its grasp, pushing the instrument to its limits. When modifying it, he pushes boundaries by including simply sufficient gentle to disclose what he knew was there already and by selecting the biggest format he is aware of the image will stand up to with out dropping its that means.

It’s a advantageous line to stroll, particularly with so little luminosity to start out with. The danger at all times lurks of pixellating the picture a lot that it explodes into one thing unrecognizable.

The photographs appear to bop in entrance of our eyes and are remodeled when Patrick switches off the lights, the delicate winter glow streaming in by means of the expansive home windows. There are the Bassin de Neptune, the Trianon, the Galerie des Glaces, the King’s bed room, but additionally lesser identified corners of the area. And even when the photographs are so blurry that they change into nearly summary, I really feel that Patrick has captured the essence of the chateau turned museum: the dreamy, timeless, poetry of a home that was by no means a house, constructed to impress greater than to guard, these days a stage lengthy emptied of its actors.

I wish to think about that Louis XIV would borrow Rodin’s phrases to inform Patrick: “Your pictures will make the world perceive my Versailles.”

Patrick Hourcade’s Le Buffet d’Eau (The Water Buffet fountain), Versailles. Picture credit score © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

Lead photograph credit score : Galerie Gradiva. Picture credit score © Sarah Bartesaghi Truong

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