From Christie’s (July 3, 2020):
It was the Impressionists, Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, who first discovered the artistic potential of the south coast, finding an unspoilt landscape that perfectly matched their aims. ‘It is so beautiful,’ Monet wrote, ‘so bright, so luminous. One swims in blue air and it is frightening.’
Vincent van Gogh captured the landscape in and around Arles and Saint-Rémy in the final years of his life, while the Master of Aix, Paul Cézanne, used the rugged landscape of his native Provence to radically reconceive the very nature of art-making.
Long before the South of France became synonymous with glamour and sun-drenched seduction — think of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in the 1955 film To Catch a Thief, or Brigitte Bardot and Alain Delon on the beaches of Saint-Tropez — this corner of Europe attracted a very different kind of tourist.
Since the turn of the century, the sleepy fishing villages and remote towns of the Provençal hills had lured artists from Paris and beyond — the bright light, dazzling colours and palpable presence of the classical past all serving to inspire and revive jaded spirits.