Light and colour
Artists have long found inspiration in the strong light and bold, earthy colours of Provence. The landscape’s luminous quality has attracted amateurs and professionals alike, whether to paint or capture on camera its stunning scenery.
Cezanne and Sainte-Victoire
Among the most famous was father of Impressionism Paul Cezanne, born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839. One of his favourite subjects, the Montagne Sainte-Victoire (pictured), overlooks his place of birth; he returned here often down the years, experimenting with an increasingly geometric style of painting as he explored every aspect of the mountain. Disciple and admirer Pablo Picasso, who later followed in his footsteps, was so taken with Cezanne’s mountain he bought a slice of it, living at the Chateau de Vauvenargues where his tomb can today be found.
The troubled genius
Another great artist associated with this landscape is Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh, who was at his most productive during the two years he spent in the region. Towards the end of his life, in 1888, Van Gogh left Paris for the more tranquil, provincial environment of Arles, where he hoped to establish a community of like-minded artists. Many of his greatest works were produced during his brief time there. After just one year the increasingly troubled artist admitted himself to the Saint-Paul asylum (which now takes his name) in nearby Saint Remy-de-Provence. Here, he continued to paint prolifically and write about his work, describing in detail the relationship between colour, light and mood. He returned to northern France in 1890 where he died from gunshot wounds the same year.
A masterpiece at every turn
Today, these giants of modern art, and many more (Matisse, Renoir, Gauguin, Chagall, Dufy, Cocteau) are commemorated throughout the region with museums, galleries, streets and squares named after them. In and around the places they frequented, it is often possible to marvel at the sights they saw along trails created to share the views that inspired them.
If you’re thinking of travelling to Provence, here’s our latest Travel Guide to the region.
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