A slice of Parisian stylish within the south of France, Aix-en-Provence is an idyllic place to whereas away an autumn weekend. In July and August, the Roman boulevards bake – the warmth right here is extra intense than coastal Marseille simply 30km away – and the rows of chic aircraft bushes alongside the Cours Mirabeau provide little respite. However are available in November or early spring and the place is full of life, because of a college inhabitants of 80,000, and the cafés and eating places in its many leafy squares are vibrant and busy. The climate is crisper and more energizing, too, that means there’s extra to do and fewer excuse to not check out the various strolling and mountain climbing trails across the city, together with Mont Sainte-Victoire, the craggy peak that rises to three,300ft to the east of town.
Sainte-Victoire has iconic standing in Aix. It’s nearly inseparable from the work of Paul Cézanne, who painted its pitted gray angles greater than 80 instances. His fashion evolving from impressionism to one thing else altogether. The daring geometric shapes and summary strains that got here out of those compositions would encourage Picasso, incomes Cézanne the title of founding father of recent artwork.
Cézanne’s view of the world defines the panorama round Aix – every facet reflecting again his work wherever you select to look. The Terrain des Peintres, a 10-minute stroll from town centre, is the place he typically studied his favorite topic and in addition to gorgeous views of the height there are a number of reproductions of his work to indicate how his work progressed. Close by you’ll be able to go to his outdated studio, the Atelier des Lauves. It’s straightforward to see why he spent a lot time right here. It’s a beautiful area that he constructed himself, surrounded by bushes and with mild flowing in via floor-to-ceiling home windows. It was right here that he produced a few of his most well-known items, together with The Bathers and plenty of of his research of Mont Sainte-Victoire, working ceaselessly till his loss of life in 1906 – but it feels as if he’s solely simply stepped away. His coat and hats stay, together with the identical china vases and bowls that appeared in his nonetheless lifes, in addition to his brushes and paints.
All this ought to be inspiration sufficient to soak up the brand new Cézanne retrospective at Tate Fashionable, which is working till March, the place you’ll be able to see about 80 of his works, 20 which have by no means been on show within the UK earlier than.
However there may be rather more to get pleasure from about Aix past its most well-known resident. Its stylish buying streets off Cours Mirabeau for a begin, lined with trendy boutiques. A browse in Sézane (no relation!), the clothes model from Paris that has reached our shores, is pure pleasure after a stroll across the Musée Granet. As is lunch at La Fromagerie du Passage, tucked away down a tiny road, the place you’ll be able to get pleasure from a platter of scrumptious cheeses with a glass or two of chilled rosé.
There are lots of fairly priced accommodations within the coronary heart of Aix – the Grande Hôtel Roi René is simply 5 minutes’ stroll from Cours Mirabeau; its foremost attraction is the prettily designed pastel-pink courtyard with balconies that overlook a flowery pool.
For those who do crave one final Cézanne repair, make it a guided go to to the overgrown quarries generally known as Bibémus to the east of Aix. This wild outpost of jagged rocks scorched yellow and orange within the solar are so actually rendered within the artist’s work, it’s nearly as if no cubist imaginative and prescient was required – he merely painted what he noticed. Stroll to the quarry’s edge for a sweeping view of Provence’s countryside – infinite pine bushes below a cobalt sky – unfold out beneath you. Then it’s time to scuttle again to civilisation: an apéritif at Le Grillon, a traditional brasserie dripping in gilt and chandeliers, and serving the most effective steak and pomme frites on the town.
Three extra French cities that impressed well-known artists
The beautiful medieval metropolis of Albi was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s birthplace, and within the Palais de la Berbie museum you’ll be able to benefit from the largest assortment of his work – from his intimate portraits of dancehall performers to the daring iconic theatre posters that also appear so fashionable. Close by is the traditional French restaurant Le Lautrec, minutes from the place he was born and nonetheless serving the tartouillat aux pommes et armagnac, made to his personal recipe.
Arles: Van Gogh
On the financial institution of the river Rhône, Arles is a pleasant metropolis of cobbled streets and chic squares. Van Gogh lived right here for greater than a yr, drawn by the gentle mild and vibrant colors of Provence, and created lots of of works, together with a few of his best work. In addition to the Fondation Vincent van Gogh, devoted to selling the artist’s work, there’s a world-famous images pageant, Les Rencontres d’Arles, remodeling this small metropolis into a world hub.
South of Perpignan and near Spain, Collioure has a fairly pastel harbour nestling in vine-covered hills and near sandy seashores. Matisse arrived right here in 1905 and made the brilliant colors and luminous mild of this panorama his personal – particularly his well-known work, Open Window, Collioure, which is widely known as a masterpiece of early modernism, paving the best way for the fauve college of artists.
Cézanne at Tate Fashionable runs till 12 March 2023 (tate.org.uk). For extra details about Aix and Cézanne, go to aixenprovencetourism.com and cezanne-en-provence.com. Rooms at Grand Hôtel Roi René begin at £130 (all.accor.com)