Americans have sung the praises of Provence for years, dogging the footsteps of author Peter Mayle (A Year in Provence) and buying colorful linens and lavender sachets in Avignon and other gorgeous villages drenched in Mediterranean sun. This year, Provence honors native son Paul Cézanne, the impressionist painter, on the anniversary of his death in 1906.
The Year of Cézanne, organized by the city of Aix-en-Provence, where the artist was born, features a wide array of events and exhibitions. Most of them will give you a chance to appreciate his works in their original contexts and visit sites that have been developed to receive new visitors for these events.
Cézanne, who was born in 1839, left Provence to work in Paris but returned to spend the rest of his life in the region, inspired by the landscape and intense light. The "Cézanne in Provence" exhibition has gathered 110 works for the first time from museums and private collections. They will be displayed at the Musee Granet in Aix-en-Provence from June 9 to Sept. 17. Before that, they will be displayed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. through May 7.
All the paintings in the exhibition are closely associated with locations in and near Aix, making the event also a celebration of Cézanne's Provence. The Musee Granet, the host of the exhibition, has been closed for four years for renovation and expansion, transforming it into one of the region's flagship arts institutions and a fitting venue for the year's events.
Cézanne, who made a name for himself in Paris, preferred to paint his native surroundings in Provence. The sites of Jas de Bouffan and quarries at Bibemus are associated with Cézanne and will be open to the public for the first time this year. You'll be able to follow in the footsteps of the artist throughout the region. Tourism officials say most of Cézanne's totemic places have remained intact, providing real insights into the artist's life.
The Artist's Life: An Insider's View
The Bastide du Jas de Bouffan, Cézanne's family estate, is where the artist lived from 1859 to 1899. In 1885 he installed his workshop on the upper floor.
The Bibemus Quarries, located between the road to Le Tholonet and the road to Vauvenargues, have been excavated since Roman times and were used to build the city of Aix. Cézanne rented a shed here, where he stored his canvases and painted the quarry's rocks.
Cézanne built the Lauves atelier in 1901. Visitors can see the objects he painted in his still lifes, as well as his brushes, easels and flasks. And a pedestrian path through Aix-en-Provence has path markers with the initial C, which mark sites from the painter's birthplace to his last home at 23 rue Boulegon.