Valenciennes remains faithful to this day to this tradition of creation and innovation with its centres of excellence that are known all over the world and orientated towards digital technology, design, logistics, ITRANS overland transport hub.
It’s possible to catch a glimpse of the causes of this development of the arts in Valenciennes by looking at the town’s history. The town, which was already issuing currency in the time of Charles the Bald (around 870), used its money to encourage the training and vocation of painters, sculptors, goldsmiths and tapestry-makers who were responsible for adding beauty to large dwellings. There was a lasting pride there. From the 13th century, the bourgeois of Valenciennes liked to have the most beautiful things that could be made and offered gifts of art to their princes.
The commercial activity that was the source of the town’s prosperity gave rise to a particular culture amongst its inhabitants that was characterised by a demanding nature, but also by open-mindedness, which seems to be at the root of this oft-expressed capacity to imagine, to create, to discover or to find solutions so as to bounce back in the face of the vagaries of history.
In painting and sculpture, Valenciennes and its surrounding area can boast of having produced leaders of schools of art, or reformers: André Beauneveu in the 14th century; Antoine Watteau in the 18th century, Carpeaux in the 19th century.
Its École des Beaux-Arts can boast of being behind France’s largest number of Prix de Rome victories. Combining first and second prizes gives a total of 48, including 21 Premiers Grands Prix, from 1737 to 1948. (Jacques Saly, Aimé Milhomme, Abel de Pujol, Henri Lemaire, Gustave Crauk, J.-B. Carpeaux, Edmond Guillaume, Constant Moyaux, Ernest Hiolle, Léon Fagel, Alphonse Terroir, P.-V. Dautel, Louis Busière, Raymond Pech, Lucien Brasseur, Aimé Blaise, René Mirland, André Sallé, J.-H. Lengrand, Paul Lamagny and Jules France).