Visit Aix-en-Provence, and you can’t help thinking about Paul Cézanne, the artist perhaps most closely associated with the town. Although he did live in other places, including Paris and Estaque (near Marseille), he was born (1839) and died (1906) in Aix.
But while you can appreciate the landscape and natural light that inspired the artist in Aix, you can’t actually see very many of his paintings here. That’s largely because no one in Aix appreciated his work at the time—and for decades after his death. His work was far too avant-garde for this conservative town in this conservative region, according to the docent I spoke to at the Atélier de Cézanne (his studio).
According to the docent, by the time Aix caught on to his genius (he was called, “the father of us all” by Matisse and Picasso), his work has simply too expensive to purchase many pieces.
Still, it’s fun to visit the atelier, up a hill from the main town of Aix. It’s where he worked regularly for the last few years of his life, and you can see the furniture, some of the tools of his trade—even his paint-covered smocks.
Farther up the hill from his workshop, you can see the site where he painted one of his obsessions: Mont Sainte-Victoire. There are more than 80 watercolors and oils of the mountain in collections around the world.
So you can come to Aix and get a sense of that Provençal light and countryside that inspired Cézanne, but you’ll have to travel (to Philadelphia, Paris or London, for example) to see most of his paintings.