Eugène Frey’s Light Set Projections exhibition

Eugène Frey
Eugène Frey - La Damnation de Faust / Mefistofele, 1905 - Plaque de verre avec filtres colorés (fac-similé) - 9 x 12 cm - Monte-Carlo Société des Bains de Mer

The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco (NMNM) became the first cultural institution to devote an exhibition to Eugène Frey. In the early 1900s, the Belgian-born painter developed a unique new process: “light set projections” designed for theatre and opera stages. The exhibition explores parallels between the works of Eugène Frey and those of Portuguese artist João Maria Gusmão whose work is inspired by the old magic lantern techniques.


The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco’s current exhibition – Variations – is devoted to the lesser-known art of Light Set projections, a stage design technique established in 1900 in the tradition of shadow theatres and magic lantern shows and developed on the Opéra de Monte-Carlo stage up until the 1930s. This technique for “Décors Lumineux à transformations” was developed by Eugène Frey and involves a complex system of light projections. These projections mix pictorial, photographic and cinematographic techniques to bring diverse variations of colours, lights and forms to stage scenery while also integrating moving pictures. At the invitation of Raoul Gunsbourg, Eugène Frey joined the Monte-Carlo Opera, contributing to its international success during the first quarter of the twentieth century.


The exhibition has been curated by Célia Bernasconi – Chief Curator at the NMNM – who was keen to draw parallels between the works of Eugène Frey and those of Portuguese artist João Maria Gusmão. Gusmão’s work is inspired by the old magic lantern techniques. The NMNM invited the artist João Maria Gusmão to reinterpret Eugène Frey’s Light Set projection technique. João Maria Gusmão came up with a scenographic installation composed of multiple modified slide projectors. Synchronised in the Villa Paloma’s different spaces, they reactivate Frey’s different animation techniques in the form of a “continuous light micro-cinema”.


Eugene Frey

Eugène Frey – Etude pour les Décors lumineux de La Flûte enchantée, ca. 1921 – Collection NMNM, n° 2003.7.93 – Photo : Marcel Loli


Over the museum’s three floors, visitors will be able to discover Eugène Frey’s various productions, from shadow theatre to the artist’s major works for the Monte-Carlo Opera, including the era’s “super productions” such as The Valkyrie and The Damnation of Faust, in dialogue with colourful projections by João Maria Gusmão. A true journey into the pre-cinema era!


The exhibition is open until May 20, 2020.

NMNM Villa Paloma 

56, boulevard du Jardin Exotique