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Following Picasso’s footsteps in the South of France part 1

3 minutes to read

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With all its lavender, orange trees, charming villages and good wine, no surprise numerous artists have been hiding in the south of France, looking there for inspiration, or just for some peace of mind. One of the most famous residents of Le Midi was definitely Pablo Picasso, changing often his houses, but also his women and muses. In the south of France Picasso was running away from hectic Paris, hiding with his mistresses, painting some of his most famous works. In late 20’s and early 30’s he used to spend summer holidays with his first wife, Olga, in Juan-Les-Pins, and sometimes in Antibes and Cannes. Soon after he was coming back with his big love, Marie-Thérèse and then eventually with his biggest inspiration, a photographer Dora Maar. Even today, there is still a strong mark that he left in this region, visible as you follow his steps down the Riviera. Besides walking the streets where he used to walk in Juan-les-Pins, enjoying the cafés and beaches of Antibes, there are also museums keeping memories of him; like those in Nice, Cannes, Ménerbes and others.

Moving to the South for Picasso meant not only a change geographically, but also regarding his style and mindset. This explains how, during the same year, he made a grey and ominous Guernica (in Paris) and joyful La Plage, Juan-les-Pins (in Juan-les-Pins).

Juan-Les-Pins / Antibes (1939 and 1945)

As the Second World War started, Picasso finds himself in Antibes, painting Night Fishing at Antibes. This little town never failed to inspire him, and once you are here it's easy to see why. However, when after the war, he wanted to settle down here, it was not easy to find a studio. In a conversation that he had with a former curator of the Grimaldi château a solution popped up and Picasso got the castle on the ramparts of Antibes which had been transformed into a museum. He used the upstairs as an atelier and made a promise to decorate the entire building with his art. And so he did. In Grimaldi Palace, overlooking the rocky shore, Picasso painted passionately and enthusiastically. The famous La Joie de vivre was done there. Today, this museum advertises as the one with most works of Picasso in the world. If you visit these two charming towns, besides all the artworks Picasso generously offered, you will find so much more: some of the best French beaches, a lot of history at every corner, a carefully curated, ten days long, jazz festival, great wine and tasty food to go with. Real Joie de vivre at every step! Plus, don't forget to climb the fort that is the symbol of Antibes. Once it was the last point of defence before the Italian border. Today, it's a lovely spot to enjoy the view and 360° panorama, as it's been open to public since 1998.

Vallauris (1948-1955)

In Vallauris, Picasso was, in his own words one potter among many. In this town with long tradition in ceramics, the artist discovered the exciting world of pottery which gave him a chance to express in a new way. He played with it, using kitchen tools to make his art, experimented permanently and eventually produced over 4000 works at the Fournas workshop. In this way he helped revive the pottery industry of the town, that now has its own Picasso museum. While in Vallauris, besides all the sculptures, he created the famous mural War and Peace, one of the major artworks of that period. Some residents still remember him and both Françoise Gilot, his long time partner, and Jacqueline Roque, his second wife whom he married on a secret ceremony at Vallauris town hall in 1961. Picasso gifted the town with the sculpture L’Homme au mouton, which is placed on a market square, Place du Village.

06220 Vallauris, France
Musée Picasso Antibes
Musée Picasso Antibes
Place Mariejol, 06600 Antibes, France
Juan-les-Pins, 06160 Antibes, France

We recommend to book your stays in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in advance as it can get booked up quickly during certain periods. If you use this link, you pay the same price and we get a small commission - thanks for your support!

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The author

Natacha Costa

Natacha Costa

Hello, I will tell you about the south of France, the Azores, Iceland, among other places, here on itinari. Traveling has taught me more than any school, and I am excited to be sharing this passion of mine with you!

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