The capital city of Moselle, Metz, with its thousands of years of history ( Divodurum for the Romans, Médiomatrice for the gallo-romans, then Mettis, Metis, Mès en 1300...) is a logical base for the project. I have worked in and around Metz for the last 15 years or more. But here was a curious dilemma : from where l live, l can approach Metz from two directions. I can follow the Moselle river by catching it towards the west and south of the city, or follow the Seille tributary as far as its confluence with the Moselle at the ancient city walls, the ramparts, at the Quartier Outre-Seille via the Porte des Allemands.
Both approaches were important to document, and a headache to then organise chronologically, and for this blog - logically l wanted to reach as far as the confluence of the two rivers by both directions, to a quiet but magical corner along the ancient walls of Metz ( which are 7 km long in total ) where l painted a symbolically-important watercolour near one of the 38 towers and openings, the Tour au Diable, the Devil's Tower ( final blog images, bottom ).
The main river approach to the Metz region, passing through Corny, and a panoramic drawing from the modern bridge ( 1959 ) over the Moselle, after the original was destroyed in 1940, at the heart of the German invasion of the region. ( note ed: at the time of writing, the bridge is courrently closed for consolidation work. I was lucky... )
I was now entering what for me was ' bonus ' territory, the stretch of the Moselle river that JMW Turner followed first in 1824, two hundred years ago. I added research elements, lots of reading too, to my own work and organisation - this after all being the main reason for my project - researching archives ( in the Turner Bequest, Clore Gallery, and the british Museum, London, but also regional archives of Metz and Jouy ) and trying to find or decipher his exact sketching viewpoints ( quite impossible ! more later... )
JMW TURNER, sketchbook page from his 'Meuse-Moselle-Rhin' sketchbooks, prob. 1824
I was also in historical territory in the sense of passing through more and more gallo-roman and roman places, ruins and monuments ( Jouy-aux-Arches, Gorze, Metz, then later Trier/Trêves, with so many inbetween ) but also, here, modern history has left its scars ; the 20th century battles between the Allies and the Germans for Corny-Novéant and Ancy-Dornot.
Rivers are vital, in times both of peace and war. The Moselle, cutting through to the heart of Europe, has seen many changes pass beneath its many bridges. I would see that Schengen, in a later blog episode, is contemporary proof of that.
Two polaroids of the Moselle at Moulins-les-Metz. Second pola reworked, acrylics.
Metz vu depuis la Moselle à La Saussaie (watercolour and pastel, A4 ) 2023
Metz seen from Longeville-les-Metz, near Ban Saint Martin ( watercolour A4 ) 2023
Metz seen from Magny ( acrylics on board, 28 x 22 cm ) 2023
Polaroid, confluence Seille et Moselle, autumn 2023
Allée de la Tour Au Diable, confluence de Moselle et Seille à Metz. Watercolour, A4, autumn 2023.
On a second wander along the ramparts, december 2023, the recent weeks of rain meant that the Seille had burst its banks. It had been one of the mildest decembers for almost 50 years...
...and so l arrived at Metz. But not in any linear way, nor just the once ! The Moselle cuts through the city, and perched over it is the Cathédrale, site of inspiration for me for more than twenty years now. And a base camp of sorts, to sit, grab a coffee, and even exhibit these Moselle works every few years. The Théâtris Bar, chez Momo...
But that is for another post. First, l needed to retrace my steps from Corny-sur-Moselle to the city via a special place on the river, Jouy-aux-Arches...