ESPRIT CALVET (1728-1810)
Esprit-Claude-François Calvet was born in Avignon on 24 November 1728 into a family which originally came from Toulouse and had been residents of Avignon since the fifteenth century.
Esprit Calvet studied at the Jesuit school in Avignon and attended medical school in Montpellier and Paris, then practiced medicine in Avignon where he became the Chief Physician at the Sainte-Marthe and Saint-Bénézet hopsitals. He was interested in science, history, archaeology and the arts; his library contained five thousand books in 1791. His collection of ancient artefacts and natural history was famous throughout Europe. Ancient coins also fascinated him. At the time of his death, he had collected over twelve thousand coins, including many gold coins. After the French Revolution, he decided to donate his collections to the city of Avignon, stating: “It is only fair that I give back to the public what it gave me”. He died on 25 July 1810.
MARCEL PUECH (1918-2001)
Nearly two centuries later, Marcel Puech renewed Esprit Calvet’s gesture, donating six hundred works to the Calvet Foundation in 1986, one of the biggest donations made to a French museum since 1945. Marcel Puech’s collection included one hundred and seventeen paintings, furnishings, faïence, tapestries, and a large and rare group of sculptures, including many bronzes.
Marcel Puech’s unfailing taste is evident in the unique collection of ancient drawings he put together. His collection included primarily Italian drawings, but also many French and Flemish drawings from the 16th to the 18th century. Marcel Puech made a later gift of several significant paintings in 2000. Marcel Puech is buried in his native village of Saint Izaire in Millau.
MODERN ART AT CALVET MUSEUM
The history of the museum’s collection of modern art starts in 1947, when Emile Joseph Rignault left the museum the art he had acquired throughout his lifetime. The Rignault bequest left the museum with a drawing by Cézanne, two Modiglianis (not displayed currently due to lighting constraints), paintings by Dufy and Utrillo, an extraordinary Vlaminck and five works by Soutine, masterpieces of the modern collection and a first outside of Paris.
The Victor Martin bequest in 1987 gave the museum twenty-five important paintings, including works by the Provencal artist Auguste Chabaud, and paintings by Mathieu Verdilhan, Pierre Ambrogiani and René Seyssaud.
The existence of the Calvet Foundation is the expression of Esprit Calvet’s wishes. The Foundation is run by a nine-member board which is chaired by the Mayor of Avignon, a de facto member, and also includes three lifetime trustees and five administrators with a ten-year mandate, appointed by the Avignon City Council. The Foundation works with the Curation in determining major museum policy.
The Foundation manages significant assets. In addition to the property left by Esprit Calvet, many gifts have been left by residents of Avignon, of Vaucluse, and persons who love Provence.
The Foundation uses the income generated by these assets to finance restoration work, acquisitions of works of art, and publications. The latest catalogue, published in 2008, was devoted to Italian painting.
FRIENDS OF CALVET MUSEUM
The non-profit association “Les Amis du Musée Calvet, was founded in 1996. Working with the city of Avignon, the French government and the Calvet Foundation, the Friends help enhance the museum’s role in Avignon and the region, and strengthen its influence in France and abroad.
The group also contributes to enriching and restoring the collections, and organises conferences and cultural travel opportunities.
Join the Friends of the Calvet museum and be part of the renaissance of one of the greatest French museums.