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The Belle France Guide to the best places to experience French art

“I can only draw what I can see” Claude Monet

France is well-known for its culture, and, of course, as part of that, its art. Not just the fact that many of the world’s most famous artists come from France, but also that many others travelled to France to study and also to paint some of the world’s most recognisable paintings.

If you love art, then France is the perfect country to come to. We’ve compiled a list of places that you absolutely must visit if you want to tread the path of famous artists before you, see the sights for yourself of the pictures they’ve painted, or simply visit the places where they lived and spent their days.


Auvers-sur-Oise

L’Auberge Ravoux
L’Auberge Ravoux

This is where Vincent Van Gogh spent the last part of his life, he is buried in the local cemetery. He moved here to be treated by Dr Gachet, who is the subject of a couple of his paintings. Van Gogh also painted the church here, as well as Wheat Field with Crows, and Daubigny’s Garden, both of which are one of his final paintings. He ended his life here, committing suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The building is now a restaurant called L’Auberge Ravoux, and the room where he ended his life can be visited. There is also a museum to visit at the site of Dr Gachet’s house.

You can visit Auvers-sur-Oise as part of the World War One Commemorative Cruise.

Wheat Field with Crows
Wheat Field with Crows

Collioure

Collioure
Collioure

Sometimes called ‘The City of Painters’, Collioure was a source of inspiration for many artists at the beginning of the 20th Century. In fact, the Fauvism art movement began here as Matisse and Derain painted much of the scenery around here. The harbour here is very picturesque and Picasso, Dali, Marquet and Chagall all visited to paint. You can tour the town and see for yourself the sites of these paintings.

Our Catalan Coast walking tour starts here, so you have time to explore for yourself.

Paysage coloré aux oiseaux aquatiques
Paysage coloré aux oiseaux aquatiques

Provence and St-Rémy

Provence
Provence

This village in the heart of Provence was home to Van Gogh for a year, when he stayed in the asylum of St Paul de Mausole and he painted the fields from the window in his room. The views he experienced here formed many of his most famous works of typical Provençal scenes.

We’ve created a whole walking tour which is dedicated to Van Gogh’s Provence, which includes St Rémy.

Starry night
Starry night

Brittany

Brittany
Brittany

Just as Provence say Van Gogh, so Brittany says Gauguin. Gauguin’s many trips to the region gave him the inspiration to move away from the Impressionist movement and develop his own style. He quoted: “I love Brittany. I find a certain wildness and primitiveness here”. He spent time in the town of Pont-Aven, a somewhat cheaper alternative for artists compared to Paris, and today there is a statue of him in the centre of the town. A few miles away, he often frequented the seaside town of Pouldu. His paintings depicted girls in traditional Breton dress and rural life of the region, and you can still visit many of the sites today.

We have a number of holidays, both walking and cycling which tour Brittany, giving you the experience of the wonderful rugged and rural life which so inspired Gauguin.

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

Giverny

Gardens of painter Claude Monet
Gardens of painter Claude Monet

Normandy is home to the Impressionist movement, spearheaded by a few artists including Monet. Giverny is a great place to visit, as it’s where Monet’s house is. Wandering around the gardens, you can see the water lilies which were of course, the subject of Monet’s most famous painting. Monet lived there for many years and created a community of artists. There is also a Museum of Impressionism that can be visited in Giverny too.

Giverny can be visited as part of the World War One Commemorative Cruise.

Water Lilies and the Japanese bridge
Water Lilies and the Japanese bridge

Of course, this is just a few of the destinations you can visit throughout France. There are many, many famous art galleries for example, where you can see these works up close and personal, such as the Louvre in Paris. If you’d like to follow in the footsteps of famous French artists, or visit the surroundings that so inspired them, please get in touch, and we can help arrange your trip for you.

Slideshow image:

The Starry Night - By Vincent van Gogh - bgEuwDxel93-Pg at Google Cultural Institute

Main article images:

The Château de Leyrit - by P.poschadel - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr
Wheatfield with Crows - By Vincent van Gogh - www.galeriacanvas.pl, Public Domain
Paysage coloré aux oiseaux aquatiques - By Jean Metzinger - Jean Metzinger, Divisionism, Cubism and Post-Cubism, PD-US
The Starry Night - By Vincent van Gogh - bgEuwDxel93-Pg at Google Cultural Institute
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? - By Paul Gauguin - Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Public Domain
Water Lilies and the Japanese bridge - By Claude Monet - the-athenaeum.org, Public Domain

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