Paint Like Van Gogh [Visit His Home in Provence]
Updated: Dec 15, 2018
Provence has long been a haven for artists and writers throughout history, and indeed the region is still well known for its art exhibits, galleries, museums and even painting workshops. The gorgeous Alpilles mountains have been known to famously inspire Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Auguste Chabert, and Yves Brayer.
Artists of the region come together during the A-Part Festival where visitors to the area can enjoy live performances and the best exhibits, shows, displays and art that Provence has to offer. The festival lasts from mid July to the end of August and takes place in Les Baux de Provence (and the nearby Quarries of Lights), Le Paradou, Saint Etienne du Grès, Tarascon, and Saint Rémy de Provence.
The highlight, of course, lies in St. Rémy, the town which housed and inspired the most well-known Provence artist of all time, Vincent Van Gogh. In a single year while living in Provence, Van Gogh finished over 150 drawings and 143 paintings, which include the famous Starry Night.
Visitors to the town can tour his room at Saint Paul de Mausole, a gorgeous 11th Century Roman style monastery that was later used as a psychiatric clinic in the 19th century. Visitors are free to explore the room which Van Gogh checked himself into in 1889, and explore the beautiful cloister gardens pictured below.
Saint Paul remains faithful to this day to Van Gogh’s dream of founding an artist's collective in the South of France. A therapeutic art studio, Valetudo (named after the Roman goddess of health), was created there in 1995. The patients’ results are displayed around the cloisters and some of them are even for sale.
You might even recognize the place, as it’s been used as a location to shoot films in recent years as well, the most recent being the one about Camille Claudel who was another troubled artist and a talented sculptor.
Be sure to walk back into town from Saint Paul’s to see 21 actual sceneries depicted in Van Gogh’s paintings. There are panels and plaques along the route to guide you and lovely displays of oleander, olive groves, and the iris and poppy fields that were featured so prominently in Van Gogh’s work.
Nearby is Glanum, the Roman mausoleum and arc, which Van Gogh walked past on a regular basis to and from Saint Paul’s. Glanum is a truly remarkable piece of history that shouldn’t be missed while you’re in St. Rémy. You can find more on the ruins of Southern France HERE.
When you’re done, be sure to check out the A-Part Festival in town, as this year’s theme is “Let’s Dance” and promises spectacular performing artists in addition to painters and illustrators.
The great thing about this festival isn’t just the amazing art, but a chance to meet and talk with the artists themselves, many of whom offer painting classes and workshops. No prior experience in painting is required, and you’ll take home a one of a kind masterpiece (by you!) of your experience in Provence. Many artists will even guide you in creating a Van Gogh or Cezzane style to your work!
There are also plenty of nearby museums and galleries to visit. The Musée Angladon in Avignon, just a short bike ride from St. Rémy, even has an original Van Gogh painting on display. Angladon is one of the best art museums in Provence and you’ll find Cezzane and Picasso’s work on display in addition to Van Gogh. The museum’s collection is truly impressive and representative of art in Provence.
Another option, is the Quarry of Lights (Les Carrières de Lumières) also known previously as the Cathedral of Images.
This extraordinary site was once a bauxite quarry in the bowels of the awe-inspiring landscapes of the “Valley of Hell” that inspired great artists, Dante, Gounod and Cocteau. Now, it’s home to one of the most dazzling galleries in the world with a new theme every year. The theme for 2016 is Dreams of a Summer Night, plus it’ll have displays from the A-Part Festival “Let’s Dance” theme.
Over 3,000 images will be displayed on walls that even reach the height of the great Notre Dame de Paris.
You can also catch Les Luminessences d'Avignon, a monumental 360°sound-and-light show at the Palais des Papes, is one of those annual spectacles that seems to grow more and more popular each year. This year's show, the fourth annual, opens tonight and runs until October 2, in the Palace's Honour Courtyard.
The Palais des Papes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was home to nine successive popes, considered the heart of the medieval Christian world and was the scene of several sieges. It played a very unique and vital role in European history...and Luminessences tells its story. The show--the same production as the one shown last summer--cloaks the four wings of the palace in enormous images and surround the audience "in a poetic fusion of architecture, light and music."