Two of my favorite South of France artists, Cezanne and Van Gogh, both have amazing dedicated museums (and more) in the towns where they lived in Provence. It’s a bit of a hike from Nice, but worth it!
CEZANNE MUSEUM/MUSEE GRANET in Aix-en-Provence
Paul Cézanne was a key figure in the birth of Post-Impressionism during his 30 years in Paris, and both Matisse and Picasso remarked that, “Cézanne is the father of us all.”
Cézanne was born and grew up in Aix, later moving to Paris, but then returning to Aix in his 40’s, basing himself there for most of the rest of his life, and much of his later work was inspired by its light and landscapes.
Although Aix was his family home, he had a very complicated relationship with his well-do-do family as well as the town, both of which disapproved of him. Unlike most other artists of the period, he didn’t suffer financially thanks to his family’s wealth, but he suffered instead from his father’s intense disapproval, even prompting Cezanne to hide the existence of his companion Hortense and their son for 8 years. His artwork was celebrated in Paris, but in Aix it was met with laughter, scorn and mockery, and the townfolk even left notes on his doorstep asking him to ‘leave the town he was dishonoring’. He stayed, however, working in increasing artistic isolation, until he died at the age of 77.
How to get there: Come by car from Nice (2 1/2 hours) or take the train or bus, or even BlaBlaCar ride sharing.
Hours: Winter hours open noon to 6pm; Summer hours 10am to 6pm. Closed Mondays, plus January 1, May 1 and Christmas.
Tickets: 6€ in winter, 8€ in summer (from July – October). Free for children and teens under 18, or students under 26 with student ID.
Audioguides: Available for 3€ in multiple languages, including English.
Pick up the brochure ‘In the Steps of Cezanne‘ which gives a walking itinerary of Aix with details the significant Cezanne sites around town, which you can spot as they are marked with a brass ‘C’.
While you’re in Aix, you can also take a tour of…
Cézanne’s Studio/Atelier Cézanne
How to get there: Take the local Aix #5 bus from la Rotonde Victor Hugo for the 15 minute trip, getting off at the Cézanne stop.
Hours: Winter hours (October – March) open 10am to noon and 2pm to 5pm; Spring and Autumn hours (April-June, and the month of September), 10am to noon and 2pm to 6pm, Summer hours (July/August), 10am to 6pm non-stop. Closed Sundays and Mondays, plus January 1-3, May 1 and Christmas.
Tickets: 6.50€ for adults but 3.50€ for students from 13-26. Free for children under 13. They have specific entry times and the workshop is small, so it is essential to book ahead.
Audioguides: Suspended during Covid, but normally available for 3€
Tours in English: Daily 30-minute tours in English at 3:30pm for 3€ more. The studio is small and the tours have a limited capacity of 15 people, so it’s recommended to book your tour in English here.
A great resource with much more on travelling in the steps of Cezanne is this great site I Travel With Art – Cezanne.
VAN GOGH MUSEUM/MUSEE ESTRINE in Saint-Remy
Vincent Van Gogh spent the last years of his troubled life in Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise, where he painted some his is most famous works.
The VAN GOGH MUSEUM/MUSEE ESTRINE in Saint-Remy is a fascinating cultural center that not only give a representation of his work, but also analyses his artistic evolution, despite (or because of?) his mental and emotional difficulties.
How to get there: Come by car from Nice (3 hours) or take the train or bus to Avignon, then rent a car or take a local bus. The museum is located right in the center of the tiny town of Saint-Remy, at 8 rue Estrine.
Hours: Summer hours (mid-June to mid-Sept) 10am-6pm. Winter hours (March-November) 2pm-6pm. Spring (April to mid-June) and Autumn (mid-Sept. through Oct.) hours 10am-noon and 2pm-6pm. Closed from December through February.
Closed on Monday, also closed from December through February.
Tickets: 7€ for adults, 2€ for those under 18, students of any age (with student ID), and teachers. Free for children under 12.
Free day: Free on Sundays, except for during July, August and September.
Guided Tours: In French only, 2€
While you’re in Saint-Remy, why not follow in the Steps of Van Gogh… There are plaques all over town with the paintings next to the landscapes or landmarks that inspired the artist.
THE SAINT PAUL ASYLUM/SAINT-PAUL-DE-MAUSOLE MONASTERY
This is the hospital/asylum, still operating, where Van Gogh was treated for a year and painted from his little room. It’s located on Avenue Van Gogh just outside Saint-Remy.
Hours: Summer hours 9:30am – 6:30pm. Winter 10am – 5pm. Closed days: None, but closed from January through March.
Tickets: 5€, but 3.50€ for students, and teens under 16. Free for children under 12.
This is the village where Van Gogh painted many scenes; he lived above the café Auberge Ravoux and ultimately spent his last days when he died here at the age of 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The graves of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo are together in the back of the Auvers cemetery.
For much more on travelling in the steps of Van Gogh check out this great site I Travel With Art – Van Gogh.
- Back up to main Art Museums page
Photo credits: Van Gogh’s room by Marianne Casamance, licensed under creative commons. Cezanne Basket of Apples, and Van Gogh’s Starry Night all licensed under fair use.