Aix-en-Provence in Cézanne’s footsteps

Inspired by the light and colours of the Midi, and captivated by the Massif de Sainte-Victoire, Paul Cézanne committed his native Provence to canvas. Here’s how to wander the town of Aix-en-Provence and its surrounding countryside in the footsteps of its most famous ambassador…

The Musée Granet, showcasing Cézanne’s works

In the elegant Mazarin district, this beautiful cultural space houses 10 works by the master. In the late 1850s, Cezanne attended the drawing school of this former fine arts museum. A copy of a painting executed here by the budding artist opens the collection.

The collection also includes a portrait of Zola, one of the painter’s peers at Bourbon College (now Mignet College), situated in the same street. The future writer once thanked his friend for defending him in the school yard by giving him a basket of apples.

Musée Granet (External link)

Sainte-Victoire, the eternal muse

Cézanne painted the Sainte-Victoire, an iconic limestone mountain in Provence, having spent a long time surveying it during his youth with friends Zola and Baille. It appears in no less than 44 oils and 43 watercolours.

In 1989, a devastating fire struck Sainte-Victoire, to which the inhabitants of Aix were deeply attached. Though Cézanne’s favourite subject went up in smoke, it only accelerated his recognition in the region. In 1990, the Granet Museum would organise an exhibition dedicated to the painter and Sainte-Victoire.

Discover more things to do in Aix-En-Provence

Cézanne was inspired by the palette of ochre hues and graphic lines of the Bibémus quarries, a rocky site hidden in the pine forest near the Sainte-Victoire.

Exploited by the Romans to erect Aquae Sextia and then by Mazarin builders in the 17th century, the quarries tell a long, poetic story befitting of a canvas.

The stone house that Cézanne rented still enjoys a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains where the scrubland mounts.

Read more about Provence’s stunning natural landscapes.

Jas de Bouffan, Cézanne’s family home

Formerly situated in the countryside of Aix, this 18th-century maison de maître belonging to Cézanne saw the artist flourish in his twenties. On the walls of the grand salon at Jas de Bouffan, he created 12 works to convince his banker father of his artistic vocation. Three of these have been preserved at the Musée d’Orsay. The orangery and avenue of chestnut trees are depicted in other paintings by the artist, who was to live here for 40 years during his stays in Provence.

Currently under renovation, the house will reopen to the public in 2020.

Cézanne’s workshop, a moving sanctuary

Every day from 1902 until his death in 1906, Cézanne worked in this light-flooded room with its large glass roof, on the first floor of a bastide he had built among the trees north of Aix.

Emotion still overcomes visitors when they see items that were treasured by the artist, such as the Provençal earthenware, and his studio coat and hat.

The workshop-museum thoughtfully preserves the memory of the artist with its boutique bookshop and programme of temporary exhibitions, as well as cultural events.

The Painters’ Plot, the ultimate place of creativity

Hidden between houses on the Lauves hill, the Terrain des Peintres (or Painters’ Plot) is a wild space with an exceptional view of Sainte-Victoire. Just 15 minutes were enough for Cézanne to reach this spot on foot from his studio, and to set up an easel in front of his favourite subject.

For the amateur artists who come here to paint their own canvases, there are panels presenting several of the works that Cézanne did here.

On October 15, 1906, a few days before his death, a storm took Cézanne by surprise here, and it was to be his final encounter with the Sainte-Victoire.

How to go to Aix-en-Provence