The historic capital of Provence, Aix-en-Provence is a genuine jewel of culture and heritage. It was the birthplace of Paul Cézanne, who painted many masterpieces there. From the town centre to the picturesque surrounding countryside, step out in the master’s footsteps.
The private world of the Aix-born master
Cézanne set up his Studio in the Lauves hills, a few kilometres from the centre of Aix-en-Provence, in the early 20th century. Now a human-scale museum, this little haven that inspired many of the artist’s works is filled with his personal objects, including models used for his last still lifes and painting materials. Bathed in natural light, this unique place where silence is golden was the birthplace of part of his masterpiece “The Large Bathers”. Remember to stop off at the shop to pick up a few souvenirs to take back home: you can pore over a book there too, or sip a coffee before hitting the latest exhibition. Just 15 minutes on foot from the workshop you’ll find the Terrain des Peintres, set on the heights of Aix-en-Provence. This open-air museum features 9 reproductions of Cézanne‘s finest portrayals of Sainte-Victoire mountain dotted along a a footpath winding through gorgeous scenery.
Jas de Bouffan
Contemplation and inspiration
Paul Cézanne spent part of his youth at this magnificent old bastide, now a listed monument. You can enjoy a guided tour of Jas de Bouffan and its stunning grounds to learn more about the history of the site. Purchased in 1859 by the artist’s father, this typical Provencal house was a fountain of inspiration for Cézanne for over 40 years. After your tour of the luxuriant grounds, head inside the family home, showcasing around a dozen murals on the ground floor. Cézanne created 36 oil paintings and 17 watercolours here between 1850 and 1899. A genuine refuge, the site was dearly cherished by the artist; as you stroll around you can still feel the cosy atmosphere encapsulated so beautifully in his paintings.
A foray into Cubism
It’s time to head to Bibémus quarry, a vast rocky plateau where stone was formerly mined to build Aix’s houses. When Cézanne discovered this abandoned quarry, overgrown by vegetation, he immediately fell in love with it. Visitors too are charmed by the desert-like beauty of this astonishing site that inspired Cézanne’s world-famed work “Bibemus Quarry”, portraying the quarry’s unforgettable spectacle of fiery orange rocks dotted with trees standing against a backdrop of azure-blue skies… The hiking trail at the foot of the Grand Site de la Sainte-Victoire passes in front of the little cabin with red shutters used to shelter the artist’s canvasses at the time. This arid plant and mineral landscape was the subject of no less than 11 oil paintings and 16 watercolours. A genuine feast for the eyes!
A tribute to the father of modern art
As you pound the pavements of the pretty town of Aix, you’re sure to find yourself in the delightful Mazarin quarter – if you can spot its typical ochre facades and the bell tower of Saint-Jean-de-Malte’s church, you know you’re on the right track. The Musée Granet is divided into several buildings, set around the ancient Priory of Malta. Cézanne’s work has pride of place here – after all, this was his birthplace! His timeless and subtle-yet-dazzling masterpieces adorn the museum walls. Pause a while to gaze at the monumental murals of the “The Large Bathers”, or recently-acquired portrait of Emile Zola. Simply stunning.