Provence, France has fascinated landscape painters for ages.
Artists have been painting in Provence since prehistoric times. Paintings of bison, seals, penguins and horses dating to between 27,000 and 19,000 b.c. were found in the Cosquer Cave near Marseilles.
From the 1300’s up through the 1700’s, Provincial rich art history consisted of biblical art, fantastic animals and scenes of daily life. My daughter and I saw many of these paintings at our day at the Louvre.
By the 19th and 20th centuries many of the world’s most famous and serious painters flocked to Provence. Landscape artists were drawn by the temperate climate and the heightened colours and clarity of the intense light. The special quality of the light is partly a result of the Mistral wind, which removes dust from the atmosphere and greatly increasing visibility. I experienced the strong Mistral wind while painting one afternoon in Bonnieux. The gusts knocked over my pochade box , supplies and painting. Luckily, I was able to salvage the little study of the day.
After this windy experience, I understood why Van Gogh’s paintings had so much movement and swirling about in them. I thought it was because he was disturbed, but when in fact he must have been expressing the Mistral winds!
Van Gogh lived little more than two years in Provence, but his fame as a painter is largely a result of what he painted there.
Paul Cezanne was born in Provence and lived and worked there most of his life. The local landscapes were featured in his works.
Auguste Renoir was also a local artist who continued his career in Provence until his death in 1919.
Both Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso lived many years in the South of France until their deaths. Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet frequented Provence. Both artists painted a number of picturesque seascapes. Cassatt also enjoyed painting the local fishermen in costume. These famous names are but a few of the many talented artists to find inspiration in the region of Provence.
It almost feels a bit sacrilegious to illustrate this article about the famous French masters with my little plein air painting studies. These artists all truly understood how to create meaning in their work. None the less, I wanted to share my paintings of Provence along with the local art history that I found so interesting. During my two weeks in France I felt a strong sense of kinship and honor to be painting the same landscapes that were expressed so beautifully by the talented men and women painters before me.
I am blessed to have taken such a wonderful painting trip~
You might like to learn a bit more about my travels: