Since the mid-19th century, the Côte d’Azur (French Riviera) has been luring aristocrats, the rich and the famous, and esteemed artists to its picture perfect cliff-lined coastline. After France acquired this territory in 1859 and then with the arrival of the region’s first railway system, the Riviera rapidly evolved into a popular vacation locale. The Mediterranean seaboard’s mild climate appealed to socialites looking for a retreat away from the dreary winters elsewhere in Northern Europe, and this destination also captivated the hearts of numerous prominent painters. You too can experience the very same radiant sunlight, breathtaking countryside, and vibrant hues that inspired the great works of Cézanne, Monet, Munch, Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh when you rent a car in Menton. We’ve included the following location highlights along the Painters of the Côte d’Azur Route to help guide you in planning a one-of-a-kind trip.
Claude Monet (1840-1927) was introduced to the French Riviera by Renoir in 1883. Of several locations that he visited along the Mediterranean coast, the scenery and seascape of Menton and nearby Cap Martin were the focuses of a number of the artist’s paintings, such as the one pictured here. Monet was taken by the vibrant greenery he observed along the seafront.
Although Monaco is technically classified as a sovereign city-state, it is still considered to be part of the French Riviera. Edvard Munch (1863-1944) traveled to the south of France in the early 1890’s, and discovered a fondness for gambling. He also created the well known piece At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo. Stop by the Monte Carlo Casino for some fun and games during your travels. For an extra little side adventure, drive along Monaco’s Grand Prix route.
Nice is the largest city along the Côte d’Azur and has attracted many great painters over the last century. Most notably, this major French Riviera tourist destination attracted Edvard Munch, Henri Matisse (1869-1954), and Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Munch rented a villa in a prestigious residential area, about ten kilometers from Nice, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. He painted scenes looking out overtop the terracotta roofed homes, of Mediterranean seascapes, and of Nice’s Promenade des Anglais (the Walkway of the English).
Henri Matisse, on the other hand, called the Nice suburb of Cimiez home during his later years in life. The Matisse Museum is located in the artist’s old neighborhood and holds an excellent collection of his works on exhibit.
The Cagnes-sur-Mer neighborhood in Nice is about twelve kilometers west of the city center and is where Renoir resided from 1907 until the end of his life. His home is presently being restored and will showcase paintings, sculptures, photography, and more in the very near future. For the time being, the Renoir Museum pieces can be viewed at the Grimaldi Castle and Museum in Antibes.
Saint-Paul de Vence
Five kilometers inland of Cagnes-sur-Mer is one of the Riviera’s oldest medieval villages, Saint-Paul de Vence. From the early 1920s to present day, the La Colombe d’Or hotel and restaurant has accepted works from esteemed artists, such as Picasso and Matisse, as an alternative way to settle expenses. If you would like to see this fine establishment’s continuously revolving art collection, you will need to make a reservation for a stay or meal well in advance. After twenty Matisse paintings went missing in the 1960s, the owners understandably discontinued allowing the public general admittance to La Colombe d’Or. Fortunately, the stolen artwork was eventually recovered from a storage area at the Marseille train station.
The destinations listed in this blog are first part of a two series post. Check back later this week for more fabulous locations to visit along the Painters of the Côte d’Azur Route.