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Bicentenary Flaubert : Eric Bénard : Voyage to Emma’s Country : By Roads and by Dreams


On the occasion of the bicentenary of the birth of Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880), Eric Bénard offers a photographic interpretation of the relationship between his work and places of inspiration. The decor occupies a primordial place in Madame Bovary. The multiple descriptions of landscapes, objects, interiors are reflections of Emma’s moods, her pleasures and her illusions, her torments and her fears, her dreams.

From his Croisset landmark on the banks of the Seine, Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) wrote for five years one of his most powerful works, Madame Bovary. Published in 1856, this study of “provincial mores” (subtitle of the novel) revolutionized literature with its daring. The story of Emma, ​​a modern tragic heroine, takes place in a Norman town “eight leagues from Rouen”. The decor occupies a primordial place in the book Madame Bovary, it is omnipresent and inseparable from the character. The descriptions of landscapes, objects, interiors and events of local life reflect Emma’s moods, her passions and illusions, her dreams and fears, her desires and her boredom.

Emma seeks to escape her boring and suffocating daily life, both concretely and by imagination. She escapes from her home by taking the paths that lead her to her two successive lovers, she invents a new life for herself through dreams nourished by romantic literature. Her dissatisfaction leaves her little respite, she is constantly on the move.

It is the permanent psychological tension of Emma that I wanted to suggest in my photographs, by alternating landscapes and fragments. On the one hand, ample views captured in Normandy at the rhythm of the seasons, atmospheres evoking the sensations of freedom and escape. And as a counterpoint, close-up, closer, vertical views of objects, gestures reflecting constraint, confinement.

As for the paths, I have chosen to give them a special place. For Emma, ​​they represent the link between her real world and the fantasized one, the promise of hidden pleasures but also the sadness of disillusionment. Borrowed in clothes ill-suited to walking and in sometimes difficult conditions, they are sometimes strewn with pitfalls. These paths put her in contact with a nature that is both beautiful and rough at the same time.

Finally, by adopting a palette of slightly desaturated and grainy colors, I wanted to distill an old-fashioned charm, a certain melancholy, a suspension of time. Some black and white images could be inserted in order to bring a certain harshness. This photographic set will be punctuated with quotes from Madame Bovary and extracts from Flaubert’s correspondence.

Eric Bénard


Bicentenary Flaubert

Exhibition from March 27, 2021 to September 26, 2021

Museum of Normands Traditions and Arts – Château de Martainville

Route du Château

76116 Martainville-Épreville, France

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