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Modern Art Tour in Provence

8 Days

Perhaps even more than Paris, Provence and its sun-drenched coast was a lightning rod to modern artists and a crucible for the forging of Modernism. It's easy to make a pilgrimage to the land that inspired many of the 20th-century's greatest artists, such as Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Chagall, Monet, Léger, and Miró. The crystalline light and elemental forms of Provence’s landscape inspired them, and the volupté of the Mediterranean saturates their work. Where artists went, travelers followed, and now you can walk in their cherished footsteps.

Days 1–2: Arles and St-Rémy

After Van Gogh slashed his ear lobe here, his neighbors had him evicted and declared dangerous; thus this city he loved neither bought nor inherited his work. Yet Arles bears the traces of his productive days here, including many landmarks he painted. Stroll the town's "Promenade Vincent van Gogh," visit the courtyard garden he painted at the Espace Van Gogh, then take a day trip to St-Rémy, where the artist bloomed at the cloistered St-Paul-de Mausolée asylum.

Days 3–4: Aix-en-Provence

Make a pilgrimage to Cézanne's perfectly preserved "Les Lauves" studio; his favorite hangout, the beautifully historic Café-Brasserie Les Deux Garçons, set on the Cours Mirabeau; his Jas de Bouffan family home; and stroll the town's "Circuit Cézanne" walk. Then drive into the pine-and-ocher countryside to visit Le Tholonet at the foot of his beloved Mont Ste-Victoire, the mountain he immortalized in myriad masterpieces.

Days 5–6: Antibes

Visit the château where Picasso experimented on a grand scale and explore the resulting museum of his works. Then visit Vallauris, where he painted a chapel with a powerful war-and-peace fresco and revived the village's ancient ceramics tradition. The next day, visit Biot, where Fernand Léger left a legacy of bold mosaics, ceramics, and stained glass in a grand museum (the Old Town here is pure enchantment). In nearby Cagnes, visit Les Collettes, Renoir's last home and its garden, then head up the hill to medieval Haut-de-Cagnes, an unframed painting of a village adored by countless artists.

Day 7: St-Paul-de-Vence and Vence

Work your way inland to the magical hill town of St-Paul-de-Vence to contemplate the contemporary masterpieces at the Fondation Maeght—have your camera or phone ready for the famous Giacometti courtyard—then walk back to St-Paul's medieval walls for a feast under the Picassos at the fabled Colombe d'Or auberge. In the afternoon, bus to nearby Vence where Matisse's Chapelle du Rosaire, created in 1947, is among the artist's most cherished works.

Day 8: Nice

Lunch at the famed Cours Saleya marketplace by the bay and study Matisse's city abode at the far end atop 1 place Charles Felix, then take the bus up to the top of the Cimiez hill to the famed Musée Matisse, an Italianate villa brimming with Matisse masterworks. Nearby is a museum filled with an exuberant collection of epic biblical paintings by Chagall.

Updated: 2014-04-21

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