Provence has been home and inspiration to many of the world’s greatest artists since the 19th century. Some were native Provençal, some came from other lands, but they were all attracted by the intense light and colors of the south of France.
Among the natives, none is more important than Paul Cézanne, considered the father of modern art. He was born in Aix en Provence, a stylish town that he only left for five months, to study in Paris. Picasso said once that “Cézanne is the father of us all.”
In 2009, when Aix en Provence promoted a mega exhibition called “Picasso – Cézanne,” I visited Cézanne’s childhood home, Jas de Bouffan, and his atelier in Aix, both opened to the public. One can learn a lot about his art by just walking through the rooms and gardens of his family’s beautiful mansion (Cézanne’s father was a prominent banker), all of which were featured in his early works. Throughout the estate there are signs explaining the evolution of his style, starting with the walls on his father’s library. There are also pictures of his oils next to the place that inspired them. I found it fascinating.
Jas de Bouffan was the main inspiration for Cézanne from 1866 to 1889; the famous painting ‘Tall Trees at Jas de Bouffan’ is from that period. When the house was sold, Cézanne moved to his own atelier in Aix, where he worked until his last day. From the atelier’s window we can see the Sainte-Victoire, the mountain he painted many times. The genius of modern art died in his beautiful Aix, in October of 1906. Today his astronomically expensive works can be seen in the best museums in the world; they mark the beginning and the foundation of the art of the 20th century.