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Art and Travel from the artist Agnes Canuto

Travel, I am talking essentially about leisure travel, is a medium of permanent exchange with art. If art can be the thread of the journey, through visits to monuments, museums or picturesque sites (we go to Egypt to see the Pyramids before meeting contemporary Egyptians), on the other hand, the journey can be a source of inspiration for creators.

The origin of these cultural journeys can be found in the European aristocracy. From the end of the Middle Ages, but especially in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The sons – much more rarely the daughters – of the wealthiest nobility went on “le Grand Tour“(in French in the text) because life is not only learned from books and libraries. First in their own country, their destination covered the whole of Europe, with a predilection for the southern countries, Italy in particular, then Greece, and finally the whole Mediterranean basin.

Préparation du Grand Tour
Emil Brack 1860-1905
Ruins with Prophet
Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1731
Tombe de Lord Sommers
Giovanni Battista Cimaroli
1687 – 1771

The purpose of this long journey, which could last several years depending on the wealth of the traveller’s family, was primarily to finalize the education of these young people. It usually took place after a university education and came to complete it. But not only that… This initiatory journey encouraged the creation of networks among the European elite and allowed encounters, adventures, emotions, discovery, pleasures including sexual ones, even if a young man was generally accompanied by a tutor or a mentor.

Many of those who went on this “Grand Tour” brought back picturesque works “worth painting”, as well as archaeological artefacts, or were represented in their peregrinations…In other words, theu brought back souvenirs, both objects of recognition and pride, which gave rise to the first collections in ” cabinets of curiosities ” that one was happy to share with the intellectual elite.

This “Grand Tour” of the aristocratic youth, and later of the upper-middle class,was thus at the origin of the Erasmus Student Program, tourism, and museography.

The Library by Charles
Towneley Johan Zoffany 1783
Cabinet of curiosities Johan
Georg Hinz 1666

Travel is also a source of inspiration for artists, painters and poets, especially as young travellers also had the duty to record their impressions, sometimes giving birth to masterpieces such as the travel diaries of Eugène Delacroix or the stories of Stendhal, Flaubert, Goethe or the poems of Lord Byron.

Eugène Delacroix 1798 – 1863
Women in Algiers
Travel diary
Study of seated Arab
Goetthe in the Roman countryside
Thiscbein 1796
Lord Byron in
Albanian costume
Thomas Phillips 1814
Montaigne
Travel Diary in
Italy, 1581

Exoticism, change of scenery and confrontation with other people, modify and nourish the thought and view of the creators.

Today, travel is the inspiration for many cultural creations, in all sectors of creation, cinema, visual arts, music, dance, fiction, poetry…

Created by the Company La Machine le Grand Éléphantis the great festive attraction of the “Voyage à Nantes”.12m high, it can embark 49 passengers that it carries inthe yard between the Naves and the Sea Worlds (“Nefset les Mondes Marins”), another attraction of the”Machines de l’île”.


Two priests of the Shingon sect in Kyoto explaining toÉmile Guimet the qualities of their dogma. Félix Régamey (1844-1907)


Finally, traveling may take a more inner direction,within the realm of imagination, or it may be limited to awandering of thought in an abstract work, but this wouldneed some explaining in another post.

Grande Envolée («Great Flight»)
Guy Sahuc 2013


In my case, I am inspired by Spain: my taste for Spain comes from my chilhood’s fascination for the sun, the bulls and the dancing women … what could be more beautiful, when you are a little girl, than a dress full of ruffles?

Agnes Canuto

Do not miss any opportunity

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