Cezanne Museum and Studio in Aix en Provence, France

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Paul Cezanne’s Studio in Aix en Provence, France 

It’s March 14, 2020, and I’m scheduled to leave France unexpectantly tomorrow because of the Corona Virus but I can’t leave Aix without visiting  Cezanne’s studio.  Paul Cezanne was born in Aix en Provence, France, in 1839 and died there on October 23, 1906. He spent most of his life in Aix, living in Paris off and on but always returning. He said: “When you’re born here, it’s hopeless, nothing else is good enough.”

The Museum and Studio on Avenue Paul Cezanne, Aix en Provence 

In 1901, just five years before his death, Cezanne bought a piece of land just north of Aix and built a two-story studio to his specifications. Cezanne’s studio is a 30-minute walk from the town center (the #5 bus stops there as well) and is easy to find. Just check online for the hours as they close midday for a lunch break. 

He walked up the hill to his studio every day in his last few years. He must have been a hearty soul because it’s quite a walk uphill from his home in the city.   

Cezanne’s paintings are displayed in museums around the world. The items in this museum are his everyday things, clothes (still hanging on pegs as if he just came in from the field), his equipment for plein air painting, and all the still life objects he collected over the years: Pots, vases, skulls, fruit, sculpture, and fabric.  It was fascinating to see the objects he used still in his studio. 

There is a gate into the property but once inside the garden beckons.  These aren’t formal gardens but perennials that appear without much tending.  It’s peaceful and lovely – from his studio one can see the town below in the distance.  I can imagine a painter being very happy in this space!

Cezanne Museum and Studio

You enter the walled property by a wooden gate.

Stairs leading up to the studio

The Interior of Cezanne’s Studio  

Cezanne had the studio built to his specifications. He chose a pale grey for the walls to enhance the particular Provence light that came from south-facing windows; he wanted honey-colored wood floors for the warmth it brought. To create large paintings he used a tall easel and ladder. Then he collected pieces of pottery, fabric, and sculpture to use in his still-life paintings. Many of the pieces displayed here are identifiable in his paintings.

Originally there were two sitting rooms, a little kitchen, and a bathroom on the first floor.  Most of the first floor now houses a small gift shop, ticket counter, and storage room. The large studio is on the second floor.

 

These are Cezannes clothes, hats, smock, and plein air gear.  

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I love the warmth picked up in my photos of his studio. I can see why he chose grey for the walls and the honey-colored floor

The Gardens

Before visiting the studio, I walked around the garden area.
The land is private and quiet. I channeled Paul and tried to block out the world and use my senses as I walked through the gardens. He must have loved coming here to paint.

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Cezanne’s studio is up a hill, so there are views over the treetops of Aix below. The vegetation is lush and hides any of the surrounding houses. Paths lead to open spaces perfect to set up an easel. There was bird song and floral smell, although I couldn’t identify the source and a slight breeze through the trees. Yes, this would have been an ideal place to paint.

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Cezanne’s last years…..

Cezanne spent the last four years of his life making the trek up the hill to his studio from his house in town. He often painted in his studio but could walk from his studio further up the slope to a steeply terraced view over Mount St Victoire, which he painted many times in both oil and watercolor.

It was there that on October 15, 1906, he got caught in a storm and was discovered several hours later passed out on the path. His rescuers brought him back to his house on a laundry cart. The next morning he was up painting again, but it was too much; he died five days later on October 23, 1906, of pleurisy. It was his wish to die while painting, and that’s what he did.

The studio after his death 

His family abandoned the studio and all its contents for 15 years. In 1921 Marcel Provence, an admirer of Cezanne’s work, bought the property from the Cezanne family. When he died in 1951, the property was again in jeopardy, this time from developers. To save it, a group of art enthusiasts and Cezanne fans created the “Cezanne Memorial Committee” and raised the money necessary to buy the property from the Provence family. When it was secure, they donated it to the University of Aix- Marseille. In 1954, The Cezanne museum and studio opened to the public and in 1969 transferred to the City of Aix en Provence.

Cezanne walking tour Aix en Provence 

Today there are Cezanne walking tours in Aix en Provence. The tour passes the house where he was born, where he lived with his family, his father’s hat shop on the Cours Mirabeau, where he went to school and met his good friend Emile Zola.  He and Emile spent much of their free time as young adults at the famous Les Deux Garcons cafe on the Cours Mirabeau (which burned in the Fall of 2019 and is closed).  The cafe was in a building built in 1660 but only became a restaurant/cafe in 1840 when Two Waiters bought the building.  Hence Deux Garcons.  

Paul and Emile Zola met every afternoon and les Deux Garcons and likely had some interesting discussions.  The restaurant is linked to many famous people (Churchill, Cocteau, Delon, Belmondo, Picasso and Piaf and more recently Hugh Grant and George Clooney).  Recently some surprises were found as the rubble was cleared and when the cafe is rebuilt (currently by 2023) there may be some interesting original decor to be seen. 

I left Aix the next day to return to the US two weeks earlier than my scheduled departure from France.  I wrote this post on my return in March 2020 but never published it.  Now it’s August 2021.  I’m making plans to return to France in 2022.  Covid has been a journey I would not like to repeat. 

 

About

I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

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