For the first time, Villa Demoiselle will put on display part of Henry Vasnier's art collection. Vasnier (1832-1907) headed the firm Pommery until 1907 and was one of the most generous donors to the Reims Museum of Fine Arts.
Indeed, he bequeathed almost 600 works of art to Reims for a new museum. This outstanding collection is representative of the pictorial and artistic audacity of the nineteenth century and relates to the affirmation of landscapes as an important genre and the evolution of decorative arts. It includes works from the Barbizon school of realism, impressionism, post-impressionism and Art Nouveau.
However, the exhibition seeks to go beyond known artistic movements, forgetting the choices Vasnier made as just a well-to-do public figure who would make safe bets (Corot) and who long received advice from Parisian experts and art dealers. Rather, it is about presenting a selection of hitherto unseen works that reveal the little-known personality of a discreet collector. Indeed, at over 50 years old, he gradually searched for works of art beyond fashionable trends, reminiscent of his personal world-paintings, sculptures and decorative art objects expressing dreams, sensuality, fantasy and enigmas.
His collection thereby reveals his unprompted modulation in taste in his life's last fifteen years, during which he acquired Symbolist and sometimes unusual works. At the same time, he defended Gallé, Art Nouveau and, one year before his death, embarked on an incredible architectural adventure-the construction of a villa, a symbol of total art commissioned to the architect, Louis Sorel, a member of the art group L'Art dans tout since 1896.
It was therefore vital to give these works-many acquired in the twilight of the collector's life-an opportunity to interact, for the first time, with the lavish, colourful, bright setting of this building overlooking the city, located on the axis running from the cathedral to the town hall.
The Villa Demoiselle could indeed prove to be his legacy, the culmination of his dreams, far from the formalism of the gallery of his town house on Boulevard Lundy where the museographical principles of Second Empire museums were imposed. In the last years of his life, Vasnier appreciated colour, light, asymmetry and intimacy.
These artworks' interaction with this dream villa brings together the two cultural quests of Vasnier and confronts one with the other. On a personal level, there was the gradual affirmation from Vasnier's "collector's eye" and, on a professional level, an assertion of "total artwork", starting from the construction of the Tudor Revival style house in Champagne to this building, between Art Nouveau and pre-Art Deco.