(continuation of part 1)
Picasso lived briefly in this tiny village after buying a château in the hills of Mont Sainte-Victoire, the mountain that his idol, Paul Cézanne, painted so many times. He passionately painted at this location - the famous Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe was created here, and even the bathroom in the house was decorated by his art. If you speak with the older residents of Vauvenargues they will tell again and again how everyone was amazed when on a snowy day in April 1973 the artist’s body was brought back here to be buried in a very private ceremony. Ever since then, Vauvenargues has been an important checkpoint of any pilgrimage dedicated to Picasso along the Midi. The best thing to do around is to hike the mountain that Cézanne and Picasso loved. There are several paths to choose from, and the views are more breathtaking with every step you make.
Picasso chose to spend his last 12 years in his stunning property, in a small, charming hillside village of Mougins. He died in his house surrounded by 500 years old olive groves, crickets chorus, and bathed in gorgeous sunshine. When he discovered this village decades earlier, it was completely off the French Riviera map, but it shortly started attracting celebrities attending the Cannes film festival, and other famous guests. Years in Mougins were the years of the height of Picasso’s fame. He produced here pieces such as: The Dance of Youth (1961), Nu assis dans un fauteuil (1963), The Chicago Picasso (1967), and Femme nue au collier (1968), a painting of Jacqueline Roque. Although famous, Mougins is nothing like crowded posh towns of Riviera, and is well worth a visit. Former Picasso’s house is a private property, but you can still check out the 13th century bell tower that was visible from his room and hike down to the Fontmerle pond, to discover the largest population of Asian lotus in Europe.
However, the story of Picasso in the South of France is about to get another exciting chapter. Near Château of Vauvenargues, the resting place of the artist and his second wife, just out of Aix en Provence, Picasso’s stepdaughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, is planning to open a museum dedicated to her mother, Jacqueline Roque, and Picasso. The collection she inherited from her mother contains around 2,000 works of Picasso, mostly from the period between 1952 and 1973 when they were together. It includes more than 1,000 paintings, with the rest consisting of drawings, ceramics, sculptures, painted plates, and photographs. The museum should be opened before 2021, in a former convent in Aix-en-Provence.
When exploring the south of France you may choose to go cluelessly around, and still there is a chance that you will come across a number of breathtaking places. However, following Picasso's footsteps in the south of France makes an amazing itinerary, filled with art. Because, as Picasso used to say: Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
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