Some science behind the scenes

Storms and artists

Provence is the home of the Mistral and the Mistral can be classified as violent weather.  I do not believe it is an accident that so many painters found inspiration in Provence.  Below is a list of just some of the painters that lived and worked there.

It is not just the light, it is not just the warmth or the food – though these all help,  - but the place and its wind does things to people.

It causes ‘madness’ of all sorts depending on what or who you are.  If you can paint, it affects your ability to paint, if you write it affects your ability to write. 

Colette lived in Provence as did Edith Wharton, who bought Castel Sainte-Claire in 1927, above Hyères, where she lived until her death in 1937.

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote much of The Great Gatsby in Provence. 

Ivan Bunin (1870–1953), the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, went to France after the Russian Revolution, and set several of his short stories on the Côte d'Azur, where he had a house in Grasse. 

Somerset Maugham bought a house, the Villa Mauresque, in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 1928, and lived there until his death.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, many of the most famous painters in the world converged on Provence, drawn by the climate and the clarity of the light. The special quality of the light is partly a result of the Mistral wind, which removes dust from the atmosphere, greatly increasing visibility.

  • Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), was born in Aix-en-Provence, and lived and worked there most of his life. The local landscapes, particularly Montagne Sainte-Victoire, featured often in his work. He also painted frequently at L'Estaque.
  • Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). 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. He lived in Arles from February 1888 to May 1889, and then in Saint-Remy from May 1889 until May 1890.
  • Auguste Renoir (1841–1919). Renoir visited Beaulieu, Grasse, Saint Raphael and Cannes, before finally settling in Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1907, where he bought a farm in the hills and built a new house and workshop on the grounds. He continued to paint there until his death in 1919. His house is now a museum.
  • Henri Matisse (1869–1954). Matisse first visited St. Tropez in 1904. In 1917 he settled in Nice, first at the Hotel Beau Rivage, then the Hotel de la Mediterranée, then la Villa des Allies in Cimiez. In 1921 he lived in an apartment at 1 place Felix Faure in Nice, next to the flower market and overlooking the sea, where he lived until 1938. He then moved to the Hotel Regina in the hills of Cimiez, above Nice. During World War II he lived in Vence, then returned to Cimiez, where he died and is buried.
  • Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Picasso spent each summer from 1919 to 1939 on the Côte d'Azur, and moved there permanently in 1946, first at Vallauris, then at Mougins, where he spent his last years.
  • Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947). Bonnard retired to and died at Le Cannet.
  • Georges Braque (1882–1963). Braque painted frequently at L'Estaque between 1907 and 1910.
  • Henri-Edmond Cross (1856–1910). Cross discovered the Côte d'Azur in 1883 and painted at Monaco and Hyeres.
  • Maurice Denis (1870–1943.) Denis painted at St. Tropez and Bandol.
  • André Derain (1880–1954). Derain painted at L'Estaque and Martigues.
  • Raoul Dufy (1877–1953), whose wife was from Nice, painted in Forcalquier, Marseille and Martigues.
  • Albert Marquet (1873–1947), painted at Marseille, St. Tropez and L'Estaque.
  • Claude Monet (1840–1927). Monet visited Menton, Bordighera, Juan-les-Pins, Monte-Carlo, Nice, Cannes, Beaulieu and Villefranche,and painted a number of seascapes of Cap Martin, near Menton, and at Cap d'Antibes.
  • Edvard Munch (1863–1944.) Munch visited and painted in Nice and Monte-Carlo (where he developed a passion for gambling), and rented a villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 1891.
  • Paul Signac (1863–1935). Signac visited St. Tropez in 1892, and bought a villa, La Hune, at the foot of citadel in 1897. It was at his villa that his friend, Henri Matisse, painted his famous Luxe, Calme et Volupté" in 1904. Signac made numerous paintings along the coast.
  • Pierre Deval (1897–1993), a French modernist and figurist painter, lived and worked at the Domaine d'Orvès in La Valette-du-Var from 1925 until his death in 1993.
  • Nicolas de Staël (1914–1955). Lived in Nice and Antibes.