Are you planning a trip to Southern France and trying to decide whether a trip to Cezanne’s studio in Aix-en-Provence is worth your time? This past week, I took a pilgrimage to the atelier and if you’re an artist, an admirer of Cezanne, or simply interested in the creation of art, a trip here will not disappoint.
Here are my top 7 reasons why you should visit Atelier Cezanne:
1: The Studio as he designed it: Cezanne designed his own studio, including the huge wall of windows that let in so much light it’s as if he were painting outdoors. The studio was also preserved — by Cezanne’s family, friends, and fans — so his things were left as when he was alive. This is not your typical museum with artifacts hanging on the walls and lengthy curated descriptions. This feels like a living, breathing studio. The artist has just stepped out for a walk in the garden, while you — dear visitor — have a chance to snoop around before he comes back and throws you out to create another masterpiece.
2: His Painting Tools: My favorite part of the exhibit were all of his paint boxes, brushes, tubes, rags, bottles… the tools of his trade. I’m amused by Cezanne the man (a strange, obsessive, sometimes-hermitlike creature who was mocked even by his friends but who was always welcome, despite his oddities), but I’m amazed by his work, so it’s his painting tools that attract me the most. It’s as though I can somehow get closer to the artist by inspecting the little tubes of paint still curled up inside his paint box.
3: Artifacts from his Paintings: The studio is filled with familiar images. Look closely and you will find all kinds of artifacts from Cezanne’s most famous paintings. Skulls and bottles, his cupid and fruit bowls… It’s like a Where’s Waldo of Cezanne paintings. Look hard enough and you’re sure to recognize many iconic objects, still sitting there, as though waiting for master to return.
4: Personal Items: His hat. Jacket. Cane. Umbrellas. Ladder. Books. Prayer book. Letter to his friend, Claude Monet. It’s all here. Residue of the man himself.
5: Garden: Cezanne notoriously liked to walk outside to get inspiration. The trees and surrounding city have both grown since his death, but the overgrown feeling of tranquility in his garden remains. It feels as though his spirit is still taking a walk in the woods, round and round his little studio, waiting for inspiration to strike.
6: Aix-en-Provence: The quaint southern French town where Cezanne was born is a beautiful city, with lovely shops, restaurants, squares and a charming cathedral. Visiting Cezanne’s Atelier gives you an excuse to walk around the city, taking in the beauty of Provence and other Cezanne sites (the artist was born here, died here, and his family lived here so he visited often even while living in Paris). A trip to Aix will show you why anyone would want to spend at least a year in this corner of the world.
7: Cezanne himself: Ultimately, this is the only reason to visit — to try to capture a bit of the artist’s essence, still living in the studio, in the overgrown garden, and around the city streets.
In a letter to Monet, still preserved in the studio, Cezanne wrote:
So here I am then, landed again in the South, from which I should, perhaps, never have separated in order to fling myself into the chimerical pursuit of art.
Even though Paul Cezanne has been gone for over 100 years, you can still feel him here, landed forever in the south, and still very much in the midst of the chimerical pursuit of art.
The studio is open all year except in early January.
Check the schedule. I had to hold my visit until January 10th so the studio would be reopened.