The Post-Impressionists Head South to Rustic Provence: Guest Post

Arles on the Rhône, one of the places we’re visiting today. Photo copyright Vanessa Couchman
Main square in Arles. Photo copyright Vanessa Couchman.

Life on La Lune: I’m very keen on art, so whenever I visit a place, I always seek out the art gallery. The Impressionists and Post-Impressionists particularly appeal to me. They have a few connections with Southwest France: Toulouse Lautrec was born in Albi, Renoir in Limoges and Suzanne Valadon in the Limousin. However, they are better known for their attachment to Paris, Normandy and Provence.

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Jeanette Gory, whose website follows in the footsteps of these artists. She’s written a post for us on Cézanne and Van Gogh in Provence, including helpful tips on visiting places associated with them. Her post has certainly whetted my appetite for revisiting their haunts (the two images above are from my visit to Arles a few years ago on a very cold May day).

[All the images in this post were supplied by Jeanette Gory, and are in the public domain, except for the two images at the beginning of this post, which are Copyright Vanessa Couchman.]

Au Revoir Paris!

Jeanette Gory writes: In the 1870’s the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists were centralized in Paris, discussing art and their next exhibitions in the cafés and nightclubs of Montmartre. However, towards the end of the 19th century, many became tired of the capital and started to scatter and go their separate ways.

Montmartre (Pixabay)

Their fascination with light and bright colors brought many of them south, away from the greyness of Paris and towards the seaside villages of the Côte d’Azur and rustic Provence.

Provençal landscape (Pixabay)

Two Post-Impressionist painters in particular, Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh, left significant artistic legacies in Provence. Let’s discover the French towns in Provence that inspired these two remarkable painters from over a century ago, whose names and paintings enchant us more than ever today.

Paul Cézanne – Aix-en-Provence

The most famous “son” of Aix-en-Provence is the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne. Except for a short period in Paris, Cézanne spent most of his life in Aix-en-Provence.


Incredibly, in his lifetime, Cézanne was virtually unknown. But today Cézanne is a celebrated household name in the town and entire region. When visiting this picturesque town, you can follow in Cézanne’s footsteps by exploring the streets, places, and landscapes that he loved and inspired him.

Cézanne’s Studio (Atelier de Cézanne)

If you are a Cézanne fan, I highly recommend that you visit his studio in Aix where he painted during the last four years of his life. The studio is not large but is full of objects that he used in many of his famous still life paintings.

Also displayed are letters that Cézanne wrote to his friends and fellow painters, Monet and Manet.

During your visit, you will feel as if Cézanne just popped out to paint his beloved mountain, Sainte-Victoire, and will be back shortly to finish another painting. A wonderful audio guide providing explanations is available for 3€ only and is well worth the extra cost. For more information, press here.

Cézanne’s Family Home – Bastide du Jas de Bouffan

When Paul Cézanne was 20 years old, his father, a wealthy banker, bought the Jas de Bouffan Estate.

TIP: To visit this house, you need to book a guided tour in advance at the Tourist Information Office. You can reserve on their website.

Bastide du Jas de Bouffan (Wikimedia Commons)

The guide takes you into what was once Cézanne’s family home. You will see one of the main rooms which was once his studio and explore the beautiful surrounding gardens.

The guides are excellent and tell delightful stories about Cézanne and his life in Aix.

While relaxing in the gardens, you can reflect that Cézanne often set up his easel, canvas and paints here to paint the view of Sainte-Victoire Mountain in the distance.

View of Mont Sainte-Victoire, painted in Cézanne’s garden in Aix

For more information about this estate, press here.

Musée Granet

Musée Granet is a lovely museum with an impressive collection of art from the 14th to the 20th centuries.

In particular, the museum has a fantastic collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. The collection includes paintings, drawings and sculptures by famous 19th-century artists such as Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, Degas and Cézanne. Also displayed are collections from the major 20th-century artists such as Bonnard, Picasso, Braque, Dufy, Klee, and many more. Press here for details of times and location.

Musée Granet (Malost, Wikimedia Commons)

The Bibemus Quarries

Just a few kilometers outside of Aix are the stunning Bibemus quarries.  These quarries are made up of exquisite orange ochre rock formations. Paul Cézanne loved these formations and painted them many times.

Painting of the Bibemus Quarries by Cézanne

It is a beautiful place to visit even if you are not a fan of Cézanne. Take note that the trail is a little rough, so only suitable if you have no mobility issues.

The quarry can only be visited with a guide, but it is worth doing as the guide will tell you the exact locations of Cézanne’s most famous paintings in this quarry. The tour in the quarry takes around one hour. To book a tour, press here.

Another way to see the fabulous sites associated with Cézanne is to book a two-hour walking tour with the Aix Tourist Office. It only costs 10 euros per person. Press here for more details.

Vincent van Gogh in Arles

Vincent arrived in Arles on 20 February 1888. After spending two hectic years in Paris, he longed for somewhere quieter and sunnier. He decided to move to Southern France to get away from the busy capital. He painted prolifically during this period.

Vincent van Gogh: Starry Night Over the Rhône

When he arrived in the small provincial town of Arles, Van Gogh took a room at the hotel-restaurant Carrel, and later, at Café de la Gare at 30 Place Lamartine at a rate of one franc per night.

This is how Van Gogh described this accommodation to his brother Theo in a letter:

“Today I am probably going to begin on the interior of the cafe where I have a room, by gas light, in the evening. It is what they call here a café de nuit (they are fairly frequent here), staying open all night. Night prowlers can take refuge there when they have no money to pay for a lodging, or are too drunk to be taken in.”

Vincent van Gogh: The Night Café in Arles

The Yellow House

In early September, he rented four rooms in the Yellow House in Arles. Paul Gauguin moved in as Van Gogh’s guest for nine weeks.

Vincent van Gogh’s bedroom in the Yellow House

The Yellow House was at 2 Place Lamartine. Unfortunately, the building is no longer there as it was bombed during WWII. Today a newsstand and boulangerie stand in its place.

VIncent van Gogh: The Yellow House (1888)

The Arles hospital

The Espace Van Gogh was originally built in the 16th century as the main hospital in Arles. It continued to function as a hospital until well into the 20th century. Its major claim to fame is that Van Gogh hospitalized himself here after the infamous episode when he cut off his left earlobe in December 1888.

When Van Gogh became unwell with psychotic episodes, he admitted himself to the local Arles hospital. Today the hospital’s name is L’Espace Van Gogh.

The courtyard garden is landscaped to resemble Van Gogh’s famous painting “Le Jardin de l’Hôtel-Dieu”. This painting shows how the garden looked then, when Van Gogh was hospitalized.

Vincent van Gogh: Le Jardin de l’Hôtel-Dieu

The complex now houses the town library as well as exhibition spaces, a series of souvenir shops and a cafe. The hospital has become a pilgrimage site for Van Gogh fans. Its address: Pl. Dr. Félix Rey. Entry is free.

While you are in Arles, you can walk to these places and others where Van Gogh set up his easel over a century ago. You will see the view he painted and a placard of the painting itself. Press here to download a map of Arles showing the Van Gogh points of interest.

If you are interested in a guided tour of the Van Gogh sites in Arles and other nearby towns, press here for options.

Vincent van Gogh: Langlois Bridge at Arles

Bon Voyage!!!


About Jeanette Gory

I am Jeanette, 55 years old and suffer with the ailment of travel addiction. I am a huge lover of art, travel, hiking, reading and my wonderful family. I have written a blog combining my passions of travel, art and reading! Have a peek.

Life on La Lune: thank you so much, Jeanette, for this fascinating tour in the footsteps of Cézanne and Van Gogh.

You might also like:

Trip to the Camargue 2: Arles be Seeing You

Pastel Night in Albi

Monet’s Garden at Giverny

Copyright © Jeanette Gory, Life on La Lune, 2019. All rights reserved.


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