Gain new insights into great artists at the places they lived and worked.
From Monet's garden in Giverny west of Paris and Toulouse Lautrec's family chateau in Bordeaux's vineyard country to the south of France where the Provencal light inspired Cezanne, Renoir and Van Gogh, exploring France through the lives of its artists is easy. Here are the best places to do just that.
The founder of French impressionism, Claude Monet lived with his family in Giverny, Normandy, for 43 years until his death in 1926 at the age of 86. As his fame grew, artists and writers from all over the world visited him here.
While there are no original paintings at his home and sky-lit studio (now the gift shop), the saturated colours he chose for his green-shuttered pink house come directly from his palette... yellow in the dining room, blue in the kitchen. And the real works of art are his gardens, the flower-filled Clos Normand and the Japanese-inspired waterlily gardens, which became his most important motif during the last 20 years of his life. You can spend hours marvelling like he did at the alternating light and mirror-like reflections. Monet created more than 250 waterlily paintings, which became more abstract and ethereal as his eyesight faltered.
Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir fell in love with Les Collettes farm with its ancient olive trees and an orange grove on a hill above Cagnes-sur-Mer on the Cote d'Azur. In 1907, he built a stone Provencal house, where he lived with his wife Aline and their three sons and hosted the likes of Matisse, Monet, Rodin and Picasso until he died there in 1919 at the age of 78. He painted in a large studio in the house and a light-filled atelier amid the olive trees, which gave him a controlled plein-air painting environment.
Today, you can visit the home, the studio and farm. Fifteen original paintings, including The Bathers, Coco Lisant and Paysage aux Collettes, are hung in the living areas and bedrooms, while in the basement are 40 sculptures which he produced with Richard Guino when it became increasingly difficult for him to paint due to rheumatoid arthritis.
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You can also visit the Renoir's summer house in Essoyes, his wife's native village in Champagne, to see the artist's garden studio and several paintings including a bridge in Essoyes. Renoir, his wife and sons are buried in the Essoyes cemetery. renoir-essoyes.fr
Vincent van Gogh committed himself to the Saint-Paul de Mausole asylum after suffering a major mental crisis when he cut off his earlobe in Arles. He lived and worked in two small hospital rooms from May 1889 to May 1890, producing 142 works, including The Starry Night, Cypresses and Irises.
You can visit the serene Romanesque chapel and cloister, outside Saint-Remy-de-Provence, which still operates as a psychiatric hospital, to see a faithful reproduction of his simple room with its view across a walled field, which features reproductions of his work. You can also see the art of current residents at the Gallery Valetudo (named after the Goddess of Health) in the Saint-Paul cultural centre.
A free one-hour signposted walking tour through the nearby, largely-unchanged landscapes of the Alpilles foothills is marked out with 19 reproductions of his most emblematic paintings. You can also download the free Van Gogh Natures App to discover more about his work through the landscapes that inspired him.
Born into the aristocracy in Albi, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec had a rare genetic disorder which caused him to be extremely short with weak bones, possibly the result of his parents being first cousins. He painted the bohemian lifestyle of the music halls and brothels of Montmartre but spent his summers at his mother's estate at Chateau Malrome, now named Chateau Toulouse Lautrec, not far from the city of Bordeaux.
You can visit the chateau to discover an exhibition dedicated to his life and to enjoy a guided tour of the family apartments with reproductions of portraits of his mother as well as lithographs of music hall scenes. There are photographs of Henri in the Malrome courtyard, holidaying at nearby Arcachon Bay, and in his Parisian studio. You can also spend the night in one of five chateau rooms, named after Henri's muses, dine at the courtyard restaurant and taste the chateau's wines.
Paul Cezanne was born and bred in Aix-en-Provence, the intensity of the Provencal light guiding him on his creative path to the threshold of abstraction as the father of modern painting. He was fascinated by the geology of his homeland, which he explored during his adolescent years with his writer friend Emile Zola, and often painted in the nearby Bibemus Quarry.
After working for many years in a studio at his family's Bastide de Jas de Bouffan, Cezanne bought an old farmhouse on Lauves Hill on the outskirts of Aix with a view of Mont Sainte-Victoire, his favourite subject. He spent the last four years of his life until he died in 1906 at the age of 67 living downstairs and working in a studio on the upper floor, lit by large windows and a glass roof.
You can still see objects from his many still lifes, his furniture and painting materials while on the nearby Chemin de la Marguerite on Lauves Hill, you'll discover reproductions of some of his finest Mont Sainte-Victoire paintings right where he painted them. Aix-en-Provence is hosting a major Cezanne festival in 2025 including an exhibition at the Musee Granet. cezanne-en-provence.com