Bucketlist Travels logo

Travel bucket list idea:

World-class art in Provence

  • Provence, France

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 09 March, 2024

Mention art in Provence, and two names immediately spring to mind: Cezanne and Van Gogh (see bios below). But the region offers so much more than the duo who created the iconic images of its lovely landscapes.

Although Provence can’t match the explosion of contemporary art along the neighbouring Cote d’Azur, new foundations, galleries and museums have sprung up, notably in Avignon and Arles, with outstanding collections.

Van Gogh 

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) moved to Provence in 1888, during a time of ill health. He fell in love with the landscape and the rich light, and decided to stay and try to set up an artists’ colony.

Initially, he settled in Arles, where he created over 300 paintings and drawings, some of his best-known works – including the famous Sunflowers paintings (now held in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, National Gallery in London, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Sompo Japan Museum of Art in Tokyo).

The following year, however, in 1889, after a bout of poor mental health, Van Gogh committed himself to the St-Paul-de-Mausole asylum just outside Saint-Remy. There he painted more of his masterpieces, including The Starry Night, now displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Cezanne 

Paul Cezanne (1839-1906) was born and died in Aix-en-Provence. A so-called ‘Post-Impressionist’ painter, he is credited with laying the foundations of modern art by bridging the gap between the 19th-century Impressionists and the later works of Cubist painters like Picasso. His style was highly unique and distinctive, using planes of colour and small brushstrokes to create complex paintings on natural forms that inspired both Matisse and Picasso.

One of his favourite landscapes to paint was the Montagne Sainte-Victorie Mountain, which overlooks Aix. He created a now world-famous series, exhibited in different art museums around the world. See a catalogue of his most famous works on Wikipedia.

Who to go with: tour operators

13
  • Avignon, Provence, France

Inside the museum, three paintings hang on three different coloured walls.

Bucket List Experience

Angladon Museum

The paintings by Chardin, Manet, Cezanne, Degas, Modigliani, Sisley, Van Gogh and Picasso that fill this delightful museum were collected by Paris fashion designer Jacques Doucet – the Yves Saint-Laurent of the early 20th century. They were later donated to the city of Avignon by his great-nephew and wife, who were both artists and collectors themselves.

This inspiring selection of art is housed in the Doucet family’s elegant Avignon townhouse, with one floor preserved exactly as it was during their lifetime. Be sure to track down Van Gogh’s Railway Carriages, the only Van Gogh painting that remains on permanent display in Provence.

Adult price: £7

Good for age: 18+

  • Aix-en-Provence, Provence, France

The interior of Cezanne's studio, with art implements and still life objects.

Bucket List Experience

Cezanne’s Studio

Cezanne’s studio on Les Lauves hill was designed by the artist himself in 1902, although he only used it when it was too cold to paint outdoors (he died in 1906, after getting caught in the rain while painting his beloved Mont Sainte-Victoire). Over the decades it has been maintained as he left it – a must-see for any Cezanne fan, the one place in Aix where his presence is tangible.

If you continue another kilometre or so north from the studio, along Avenue Paul Cezanne, you’ll come to Les Lauves, the Terrain des Peintures viewpoint – where Cezanne often planted his easel to paint Mont Sainte-Victoire.

Adult price: £6

Good for age: 18+

Estrine Museum

  • Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Provence, France

Close up of a a book on the biography of the painter Van Gogh

Experience

In an 18th-century mansion, this museum bases its exhibits on Van Gogh’s complaint that living artists were unfairly ignored. It has a fine permanent collection of 20th- and 21th-century works, along with a Van Gogh interpretation centre.

Adult price: £6

Good for age: 18+

  • Aix-en-Provence, Provence, France

Exterior of the Granet Museum, a low stone building with steps leading up to a red door.

Experience

Granet Museum

A must for any art lover, the Granet Museum has a fascinating archaeological collection (including a reconstructed Celtic ‘head cult’ temple from nearby Entremont) and a remarkable array of works by Rubens, Rembrandt and Ingres.

Its 10 Cezanne paintings include a portrait of Emile Zola, the artist’s boyhood friend in Aix. From the 20th century come works by Giacometti, Mondrian, Balthus and Morandi and the excellent Collection Planque, with paintings by Degas, Picasso, de Stael, Braque and Klee.

Adult price: £5

Good for age: 18+

Lambert Collection

  • Avignon, Provence, France

Exterior of the stone building

Experience

Two beautiful 18th-century mansions in Avignon host this contemporary collection. Established by Yvon Lambert, a renowned art collector, the collection features works by renowned artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Cy Twombly.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

Petit Palais Museum

  • Avignon, Provence, France

Exterior of the Little Palace Museum

Experience

Papal Avignon was the centre of the European art for decades, and over 300 works of (mostly) Italian medieval and renaissance paintings and sculptures commissioned by the wealthy prelates of the church, including a Botticelli Madonna, are displayed in this 14th-century palace.

Good for age: 18+

Pierre-de-Luxembourg Museum

  • Villeneuve-les-Avignon, Provence, France

Close up of a famous painting

Experience

Museum housing masterpieces of French International Gothic art, including Enguerrand Quarton’s famous Coronation of the Virgin. It’s housed within a former cardinal’s palace, and named after the renowned cardinal who resided there in the 14th century. Exhibitions range from medieval sculptures and religious art to Renaissance paintings and decorative arts.

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 18+

Reattu Fine Arts Museum

  • Arles, Provence, France

Exterior of the stone building showing entrance

Experience

Set in the 15th-century Grand Priory of the Knights of Malta, this museum features tapestries on the Seven Wonders of the World (1614), Van Gogh’s famous letter to Gaugin, 57 drawings donated by Picasso, and much more.

Adult price: £7

Good for age: 18+

Rencontres Arles

  • Arles, Provence, France

Lady staring at photo exhibitions on old stone walls

Experience

Founded in 1970, this major International Festival of Photography takes place in Arles from July to September in the Espace Van Gogh – the 16th-century Hotel Dieu – the city hospital that treated Vincent after he cut off his ear.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 3 months

When: July-September

Freq: annually

St-Paul-de-Mausole

  • Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Provence, France

The exterior facade and entrance of the St Paul de Mausole, a golden stone building

Experience

The asylum where Van Gogh spent 1888-89 is a masterpiece of Provencal Romanesque, and today specializes, appropriately, in art therapy. His room and reproductions of the paintings he made there are on display, along with temporary exhibitions.

Adult price: £4

Good for age: 18+

  • Arles, Provence, France

The Langlois Bridge beside a replica of a Van Gogh painting

Bucket List Experience

Van Gogh Walk in Arles

As prime spots where Van Gogh lived and painted, the towns of Arles and Saint-Remy both regret not hanging on to any of Van Gogh’s original works while he was alive. To make up for it, each has set up a self-guided Van Gogh Walk, pinpointing the scenic spots where the master planted his easel.

When doing the walk in Arles, spare some time to see the Espace Van Gogh in the former hospital on Place du Dr Félix Rey, where he had his ear stitched up and was later locked up. Inside you’ll find exhibits chronicling his stay. The hospital’s courtyard has been remodelled to resemble as closely as possible his famous painting ‘Le Jardin de l’Hôtel de Dieu’. You’ll also pass by the Reattu Fine Arts Museum, which houses many of Van Gogh letters, and the famous Café Terrace on the Place du Forum.

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 1-2 hours

  • Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Provence, France

Inner corridor at the monastery saint paul de mausole, with sun coming through the stone arches

Bucket List Experience

Van Gogh Walk in Saint-Remy

Vincent Van Gogh moved to Provence in 1888, during a time of ill health. He fell in love with the landscape and the rich light, and decided to stay and try to set up an artists’ colony.

Initially, he settled in Arles, where he created over 300 paintings and drawings, some of his best-known works – including the famous Sunflowers paintings (now held in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, National Gallery in London, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Sompo Japan Museum of Art in Tokyo).

The following year however, in 1889, after a bout of poor mental health, Van Gogh committed himself to the St-Paul-de-Mausole asylum just outside Saint-Remy. There he painted more of his masterpieces, including The Starry Night, now displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

As prime spots where Van Gogh lived and painted, the towns of Arles and Saint-Remy both regret not hanging on to any of Van Gogh’s original works while he was alive. To make up for it, each has set up a self-guided Van Gogh Walk, pinpointing the scenic spots where the master planted his easel.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1+ hours

Vincent Van Gogh Foundation

  • Arles, Provence, France

A low white wall painted with Van Gogh's signature

Experience

Arles is world-famous thanks to Van Gogh, but to the city’s eternal regret no one bought any of his paintings. This foundation, in the newly renovated Hotel Leautaud de Donines, is dedicated to art exhibitions inspired by the artist.

Adult price: £9

Good for age: 18+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around

Who to go with: organised tours

3

Our selection of the best Viator tours of this attraction or activity

  • Avignon

Take a half-day tour from Avignon to experience with your own senses the actual atmosphere which made Vincent van Gogh spend his latest years in Provence. Your guide will walk along with you in Arles while showing you around. Then you will be given plenty of time to fully enjoy the most spectacular light show at Carrières de Lumières. Do not miss the beautiful vista to the Alpilles mountains on the way to the sanatorium.

Price €90

Min age 0

Rating 4.66 / 5 [24 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • Avignon

Enjoy a small-group tour from Avignon to follow the steps of Van Gogh with an experienced guide. During this half day tour we will guide you through the wonderful marriage of art and history. Following Van Gogh steps, we will visit Arles and Saint Rémy de Provence where he lived and painted. Explore the incredible perched village Les Baux de Provence one of the most visited destination in France.

Price €75

Min age 0

Rating 4.8 / 5 [20 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >