Exhibition Introduction Programme
Menu
Exhibition Colette

Exhibition Colette
Écrire, pouvoir écrire [Writing, Able to Write]

From 14 January to 2 April 2023

Photo Colette, [1910] © Alamy | Graphisme © Omnigroup

Introduction

Novelist, mime, actor, journalist, scriptwriter, adwoman, and occasional seller of beauty products, Colette (Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, 1873 – Paris, 1954) defies categories. Born into a family fallen on hard times and stumbling into literature without wanting to, Colette made change the guiding principle in her life, practically a moral code. Her unconditional freedom, her novel way of approaching writing, of introducing new, unheard-of themes by force of will, of making women – acting for themselves and feeling desire – subjects in their own right, of reconciling literature with nature – these aspects of her life and literary output have inspired generations of readers, making her a contemporary icon.

But how does one become a Colette? To ask that question is to go back to the roots of a vocation that refused to speak its name, to point up the family, social and personal obstacles that had to be overcome and all the triumphs Colette managed to bring off as a pioneer in a half century of creativity. For writing was to her the locus and instrument of her emancipation, a way to explore possibilities, free herself from literary genres and sexual genders, and invent a “new alphabet.”

From the Claudine series of books to Le Fanal bleu (translated as The Blue Lantern), Colette reinjected delight into literature by creating new forms, imagining new heroines who confront solitude, exclusion, difference, and age with the same measure of courage, questioning the stereotypes imposed by the society of her day, exploring reality in its most banal and material dimensions, and exposing and dragging into the light what the human eye, before her, had never seen.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth, the Jan Michalski Foundation is pleased to present a show featuring nearly 250 documents – original editions, photographs, letters, manuscripts, objects – that have rarely, if ever, been shown in public. An original career that bears witness to the flourishing – repeated a thousand times over – of a woman writer at work, aware of her talent and celebrity, who, through the force of her pen, forged a name that was and remains an emblem.

Guest curator

Frédéric Maget

Contributing collections

Michel Remy-Bieth, Frédéric Maget, Foulques de Jouvenel
La Maison de Colette
Société des amis de Colette
Centre d’études Colette – Conseil départemental de l’Yonne
Private collection