Dinner with Carl Larsson

Last week I moved to a tiny village in France to focus on drinking wine, eating baguettes and – oh yeah – writing. But I didn’t move to just smalltownville-anywhere in France, I have taken up residence in an artist colony in Grez-sur-Loing, which was once home to Carl Larsson (Midwinter Sacrifice; many paintings depicting life in the Swedish countryside as well as the heading photo above), August Strindberg (Miss Julie; The Red Room), Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Treasure Island) along with many other famous writers and painters.

The half dozen apartments here at Hotel Chevillon are predominately inhabited by stipend recipients. The aim of these stipends is to allow artists (and the odd scientist, such as myself) to take advantage of this beautiful, historic location – as well as the relative isolation – to focus on our writing or art.

On Friday night I sat in the dining hall – a grand room that wouldn’t be out of place in a smaller castle anywhere in Europe – and chatted with my fellow residents about poets, female painters through the ages and the French take on ‘fancy dress’ (dress-up) parties. And all this while eating a fine meal of market veggies and horse.

At this point it occurred to me that this isn’t just your average week-in-the-countryside-writing-getaway. I’ve managed to step back in time. Want a peak?

Hotel Chevillon

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Welcome to Hotel Chevillon, my home for the next two months!  The text reads: “Restored in 1994 as a guesthouse for artists and writers” in both Swedish and French.

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My small apartment on the top floor, including my breakfast table / work space.  I also have an office, but the view isn’t as nice so I stick to working with my eyes turned to the courtyard.

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A quick walk down the painting-lined stairway brings us to the lower floor. In addition to the paintings, there are photos of the Swedish queen’s visit to Hotel Chevillon in the entry way.

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The dining room. It is like eating dinner in a museum display… but with a CD player.

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The sitting room.  The psychedelic window panes are actually originals from the construction of Hotel Chevillon in the 1800s.  The paintings in the far corner were found in the attic during one of the renovations of the previous decade.  Some furniture is beautiful and vintage, other pieces are cheap IKEA masterpieces of self-assembly – the renovation budget wasn’t as one might have desired.

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A sitting place just outside of the kitchen. The caretaker, Bernadette, spent all of Saturday adorning the courtyard with purple pansies to keep it fresh and lively, even as the November rain sets in. The outside of my room is visible in the corner, just above the wooden gate.

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Outside. The house from the courtyard.

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Outside.  A little further down the yard you can see the section of the house, painted yellow, where Carl Larsson lived with his family in the late 1800s.

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The giant back yard abuts the River Loing, as well as this iconic bridge. We have some resident swans to boot.

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The bridge is a popular subject among the painters staying at Hotel Chevillon. These are some of the many paintings hanging along the walls inside. I would give credit to the painters, but there is no information on who made the works of art aside from the scrawled signatures at the corner.

Perhaps this is just a little nod to all of the anonymous artists that have floated in and out of Hotel Chevillon, overshadowed by the greats that were once within its walls?

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