An endless canvas of vibrant yellow sunflowers … rolling hills of earth-toned wheat and green pastures undulating toward an alpine landscape … the welcoming charms of colorful stone-carved market squares dappled with shade from plane trees and vibrant umbrellas. These are the iconic images of Provence you may encounter during our new Discovery Tours adventure, Treasures of Provence.
Provence has long captured the imagination of travelers—to say nothing of the imagination of artists. In fact, the region was central to one of history’s most influential artistic movements, French Impressionism. When this painting style was introduced to the salons of Paris in the late 1800s, it was decried as sacrilege. For generations, the Parisian Académie des Beaux-Arts had set the standards for fine French art. To them, paintings were meant to depict historical moments and figures and to convey religious and mythological themes. Equally important, brush strokes were expected to be undetectable, ostensibly so that the viewer could not distinguish what was real from what was painted.
Impressionism turned theses standards on their heads and appalled the establishment. Thus rejected, young painters such as Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and others formed their own association with the aim of bypassing the Académie so their works could be viewed by the public without the hindrance of the so-called culture keepers. In their work, formal portraits, religious images, and realism were replaced by scenes of ordinary people, landscapes, and visible brush strokes meant to convey motion and life … in short, the artists conveyed their impression of nature and of place rather than duplicating it in the way a photograph would. In all, 30 artists displayed their work at their first exhibition in 1874. The art world would never be the same.
Several of the French Impressionists went on to find inspiration in Provence, drawn by the quality of the light. From Cezanne’s legendary depictions of Marseilles and Mont Sainte-Victoire … to Van Gogh’s images of the night café at Arles and a starry night over the Rhone River… to the lush images created by the likes of Chagall, Renoir, and others, Provence helped to immortalize a new movement in art. Their paintings forever etched one of the world’s most beautiful regions in our memories, and we’re sure you’ll find that it’s pure privilege to witness them firsthand.