"Roofs in Collioure", 1905, Henri Matisse (Hermitage State Museum)
The South of France, with its glorious light and varied vistas, has long been a magnet for plein-air painters. This is the world Vincent van Gogh described as his “high yellow note.” Art historian Bonita Billman looks into the inspiration that places like Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, St. Remy, St. Tropez, and Nice provided for the brilliantly colored works produced by 19th and early-20th century painters.
9:30–10:45 a.m. The Art History of the South of France
Provence has a long cultural history and produced some notable painters for hundreds of years before Cezanne and van Gogh, including Enguerrand Quarton, Marius Granet, Joseph Vernet, and François-Xavier Fabre.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The High Yellow Note: Van Gogh in Arles and St. Remy
Vincent van Gogh spent 444 days in Arles—his most prolific period in his brief career. He painted the changing seasons in the strong light of the Midi and dreamed of a studio in the South for himself and fellow artists. Even after he committed himself to the asylum at nearby St. Remy, he continued to paint when he was able.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence
Cézanne spent so much his working life in the town of his birth that he was referred to as “the hermit of Aix” and remained a mysterious figure to his admiring younger contemporaries. The local landmark, Montagne Sainte-Victoire, became one of his frequent subjects.
3–4:15 p.m. Post-Impressionists Signac and Matisse in the South
Van Gogh’s friend, neo-Impressionist Paul Signac, discovered the beauty of St. Tropez and concentrated on capturing the brilliant Mediterranean light in the seaside towns of Collioure, Cassis, Antibes, and St. Tropez. The Fauvist Henri Matisse is closely associated with Nice, where he lived and worked much of his long career, painting the landscape as well as still lifes and figural subjects.
Billman is retired from the department of art and art history at Georgetown University.
World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1 credit*
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