An Artistic Journey Through France

Anyone who is remotely interested in the arts should take a voyage of exploration across France. The Impressionist movement fell in love with the crisp clear colours of Provence, and photographers like Brassai were smitten by the atmosphere on the streets of Paris.

Head out to Versailles and see the marvels of the court of Louis XIVth, or just pop in to any of this country’s amazing cathedrals and look at the stunning stained glass and carved woodwork - wherever you travel in France, you will find the roots of many artistic movements that eventually spread across the world.


Louvre, Paris, Moyan Benn
Louvre, Paris.  Image Credit : Moyan Benn, Flickr
So many artists have made Paris their home that it can be difficult to suggest a starting point for this journey of discovery. The photographer Brassai, in common with the painter Toulouse Lautrec, was fascinated by the louche back streets around Montmartre, and it doesn’t take too much imagination to half close your eyes and take yourself back to the earlier part of the 20th century.

If you are wandering around Paris you probably won’t need any personal transport - the Metro is an artistic adventure in itself - but if you decide to venture further afield, and if you value your independence, you will need to hire a car to explore regional France, if only to admire and look out for all the features that have so influenced generations of painters and sculptors, as well as take a trip off the beaten track.


This palace is a prime example of the splendours of the Baroque. Louis XIV (aka The Sun King) never did things by halves. He did almost bankrupt the country in the process, but the dazzling beauty of the Hall of Mirrors and the gardens of le Notre are just a few of the spectacles on show. Try and take your time here - I became so tired walking around the palace and grounds that it started to become tricky trying to absorb so much beauty in one spot. Pace yourself!


Lavender Field, Provence
Image Credit : oenvoyage, Flickr
Look at the crisp clear skies and the lavender fields surrounding you and it’s no surprise that the South of France became a veritable haven for artists in the latter part of the 19th Century and the 20th century. Gaugin developed his craft here; Van Gogh gained much of his explosive use of colour and inspiration from the surrounding countryside, as did Picasso. The Chapel du Rosaire in Vence has stained glass windows designed by Matisse. The list of painters who fell in love with the lifestyle and atmosphere of the Riviera is endless. They were, though, seeing the countryside before it became the hip and expensive region it is today.


If you want to travel back in time and see some 30,000 year old paintings, then try a trip to the caves of Chauvet Pont d’Arc in Ardeche. The paintings of the bison and the horses that were hunted and ridden in the everyday lives of the Palaeolithic peoples still look as is they might fly off the cave wall and become transformed into animate objects. Entrance is restricted in order not to damage the works, but the South and South West of France is a cornucopia of cave painting delights.

This is a featured article written by Celina Bledowska, journalist, art lover and writer
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