Built at the end of 15th century in a magic tête –à-tête with the Rhone, the Grand-Prieuré de l’Ordre de Malte owes its life to Jacques Réattu (1760-1833), painter from Arles and winner of the Grand Prix de Rome, who made this his home, studio and the laboratory of his dreams. Converted into a museum in 1868, the building has kept all his work and his personal collection, including an extraordinary portrait by Simon Vouet.
Expanding into photography in the sixties (4000 pieces today), enriched with valuable gifts (57 drawings and two paintings by Picasso, Alechinsky…), and very sensitive to sculpture (German Richier, Toni Grand…), in 2008 the museum opened an audio room for sound art. As a meeting point, commissioning artists and mixing disciplines, the museum organises thematic exhibitions and rolling showings that allow the visitor to explore art in a different way.
REATTU MUSEUM, on the bank of the Rhone in the Ancien Grand Prieuré de l’Ordre de Malte, exhibits work from the 17th - 19th centuries, drawings and paintings by Picasso and contemporary artists. Through its temporary exhibitions (approximately three every year), its acquisitions or proposals to the public, the museum today mainly focuses on artistic creation.
At the crossing of the Rhone and the Cardo (the NORTH-SOUTH axis of the Roman city), the place owes its artistic calling to Jacques Réattu, a painter from Arles and the 1790 winner of the Grand Prix de Rome, who bought the building to live and work there. His dream was to house artists in residence to offer them the intensity of the landscape, 60 years before Vincent Van Gogh’s idea of a «Workshop of the South». The museum inherited this unfulfilled dream, its buildings and all the painter’s work. The Réattu Museum is a creative laboratory. Today, its architecture, the running theme behind the museum’s policy favours a cross-cutting approach to the collections and links between art and daily life. It encourages a mixture of genres and visitors and gives the museum its role as a « laboratory » in which the artist is the main centre of attention.
On November 19, 2011 the museum inaugurated a new section dedicated to the Knights of Malta, located in the magnificent former archives room, a space essential to memories of the Knights in Arles, where the registries of the noblemen and their coats of arms were kept. This new museum presentation includes an introduction to the history of the Order of the Knights Hospitalers of St. Jean of Jerusalem with an emphasis on the knights in the Camargue and Arles.