The French Riviera on Canvas

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Artists in the French Riviera

Our sadly incomplete collection of picturesque views from Cagnes-sur-Mer

Many of the 20th century’s most famous painters spent some time – occasionally the most fruitful years of their lives – on the French Riviera. On good, sunny and clear days, of which there are many, the whole area looks like a painting, and there is practically not a single town along the coast which has not been immortalized in a work of art.

The local and provincial administrations are rightly proud of this fact, and reproductions have been put up in many of the places that inspired great and lesser artists alike, to commemorate the French Riviera on canvas in question as well as the attraction the entire area has always had for artists in search of “southern lights”.

"The French Riviera on Canvas - Menton Bay"

Menton Bay – then and today

These reproductions are scattered throughout the area, and you do encounter them regularly on walks along the coast (the series is called La Cote d’Azur des Peintres), but there are places where they are particularly concentrated. Cagnes-sur-Mer (a few kilometers west of Nice) is such a place.

Read also: Follow the Monet

There are 12 such tableaux in Haut-de-Cagnes alone, the Old Town district which towers on a hill above the modern city centre by the sea. Together, these paintings provide a fair representation of the local sites and encapsulate nicely what brought so many painters to this particular spot: the presence of the Grimaldi castle on the very top of the hill …

"French Riviera on Canvas - Haut de Cagnes"

… especially the option of integrating the castle silhouette into a picturesque street view …

"Riviera on Canvas - Haut de Cagnes cathedral"

… the maze of narrow streets and lanes …

"French Riviera on canvas - an alleyway in Haut de Cagnes"

… and, again and again, the play of the Mediterranean sunlight on bleached stones and luscious vegetation.

"French Riviera on canvas - stairway and street in Haut de Cagnes"

Two more paintings have apparently been put up in front of the Musée Renoir in the downtown area of Cagnes-sur-Mer (on the Chemin des Collettes, a convenient 20 minute walk away from the Old Town), the estate where Auguste Renoir spent the last 12 years of his life (and which he painted several times), but we have to take the tourists’ brochure’s word for it: we visited the town on a Tuesday when the museum is closed, even the car park in front of it, so we could not even catch a glimpse, and this is as close as we came.

"Gate leading to entrance to Musee Renoir in Cagnes sur Mer"

So when you make the same trip and discover another depiction of the Riviera on canvas, tell us what it was like – and send us a pic!

Read more about our meanderings and discoveries in the French Riviera here. Don’t miss our latest by subscribing to our free updates via email. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Why not include us in your G+ circles too?

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