Seeking Matisse in Provence

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What inspires you about France?

Is it the fine wines and sophisticated cuisine, the couture fashion houses, or the harmonious, elegant language? Perhaps it’s the Louvre and the Sacré Cœur Sanctuaire in Paris, the Palace of Versailles, Mont St-Michel, or the Alps? The truth is the list if never ending, and moreover, humbling. However, in the 19th and 20th century, for some, the inspiration came from something more simple and natural – the wind.


As luck would have it, the mistral is a powerful and biting northwesterly wind. And it blows from southern France into the Gulf of Lion in the northern Mediterranean. It can be felt more during winter and spring, and is stronger in the transition between the two seasons. This natural occurrence is key to the climate of Provence. It clears the skies and sweeps through crisp air and fresh weather. Most importantly, it imparts an immaculate light upon this región. A light, so pure, that it moved such greats as Matisse, Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne, and Renoir, to vacation in and relocate to this area just so they could capture its raw beauty through artistic expression on canvas (with the exception of Cézanne who was actually from this region).


Provence, Southern France

The clarity of this light inspired masterpieces. Such as Landscape near Cagnes (Renoir), Mont Sainte-Victoire and L’Estaque (Cézanne), Country Road in Provence by Night and Cafe Terrace at Night (Van Gogh), Luxe, Calme et Volupté (Matisse), and The Port of Saint-Tropez (Signac).

So all these paintings were inspired by the region of Provence and its many delights: Nice, St. Tropez, L’Estaque, Cagnes-sur-Mer, Arles. Aside from a good French wine, there are few things in life as intoxicating as standing on a corner of the Place du Forum in Arles on a starry, clear night, and gazing at the very same vision that inspired Cafe Terrace at Night; knowing just a little bit about Van Gogh’s life makes this scene nostalgic, stirring, delightful, and melancholy, all at the same time. Truth be told, you have to experience this for yourself to understand the everlasting impact it has on your senses and the memories it forges into your mind.


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So, if you’re looking for your own inspiration, all you need is a week, a rental car, and a flight into Marseille; then let the light of Renoir, Cézanne, and Matisse guide you (or you can call us). Contact Us to organize your European travel and event plans.



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