Throughout the centuries many artists have been inspired by the South of France; the light, the sea and the magnificent views. It remains a popular holiday destination; a few of us at Gurr Johns are heading there for the summer holidays, which got us talking about our favourite places to retrace the footsteps of the modern masters and enjoy the regions artistic gems. Here are a few of our top tips:
* For an intimate glimpse into the life and works of Cezanne, his atelier in Aix en Provence should be your first stop. From 1902 until the end of his life, the artist worked here daily, and it’s the birthplace of many works now hanging in great museums around the world. Described by Picasso as ‘the father of us all!’ the particular light of Provence featured heavily in his works, and you can admire views of the Sainte-Victoire Mountain which dominated so many of his works.
* Continue further east and you’ll come to Antibes, where Pablo Picasso spent nearly a year living and working in Chateau Grimaldi in 1916. Subsequently the building was transformed into the first museum in the world to be dedicated to the artist, and it now holds over 200 works by his hand including drawings, sketches, paintings, carpets and ceramics. The nearby Picasso War and Peace Museum in Vallauris, where the artist also lived for 7 years, displays two further monumental works by him.
* The mighty Maeght Foundation, near the village of Saint-Paul de Vence holds an unmissable collection of modern and contemporary art in all its forms. Inaugurated in 1964, it was born out of the friendship of the art dealer and gallery owner Aimé Maeght, with artistic greats including Miró, Calder, Braque, Giacometti, Chagall and Chillida and boasts exceptional works by their hands.
* Once exhausted by the wealth of treasures at the Maeght, nearby lies La Colombe d’Or, a historic hotel and restaurant which hosted many of these artists during their visits to the area and which has acted as a cultural meeting spot for almost a century. The walls are covered by paintings, which were often exchanged directly from the artists’ hands for a stay or a few meals. Not only that but the food is mouthwatering too.
* Van Gogh took up residence in Saint-Paul de Mausole in 1889 and stayed for a year. Visitors today can enjoy the Provencal Romanesque architecture and a wing of the pretty cloister houses a museum which retraces the period of Van Gogh’s stay. Make sure to also visit the Van Gogh Field, where you can admire more than 20 large scale reproductions of the artist’s most famous paintings, on the site where they were created.
* Jean Cocteau is another name strongly associated with the region, and there are many reminders of his time there. Our favourite is Santo Sospir in Saint Jean Cap Ferrat where Cocteau was once invited to stay by a friend and ended up staying for 11 years, during which time he covered every surface of the villa with his vibrant decoration. Don’t miss another treasure in nearby Villefranche sur Mer, a small 14th century chapel dedicated to Saint Peter, painted with scenes from the life of the saint, the sea and fishermen.
This is just a snapshot of this rich, cultural region. Chagall, Leger, Dufy, Matisse and many, many others were attracted by its light, beauty and artistic life and many of their works are on show in the numerous museums along the coast.