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Mont Sainte Victoire – In the Footsteps of Paul Cezanne

Paul Cezanne painted Mont Sainte Victoire again and again between the years 1882 and 1906. These paintings are considered as some of the best landscapes ever painted. Art historians and critics believe that these landscapes had a huge impact on the development of modern art.

Mont Sainte Victoire  - Paul Cezanne Painting
Mont Sainte Victoire – Paul Cezanne Painting [Public Domain]

“Cezanne was my one & only master …He was like the father of us all” Quote Pablo Picasso

Paul Cezanne and Provence

Cézanne was actually born in Aix-en-Provence. As a young man, he left for the Parisian capital to pursue his dream of becoming a painter. He didn’t last long in the big city and returned to his quiet hometown, Aix.

Here in Provence and far away from the vibrant art scene of Paris, Paul Cezanne followed his own artistic path. The beautiful Provincial landscapes provided him with more than enough inspiration.

Mont Sainte Victoire  - Paul Cezanne Painting
Mont Sainte Victoire – Paul Cezanne Painting [Public Domain]

Cezanne’s Love Affair with Mont Sainte Victoire

The inhabitants of Aix have always loved their 1011 meter high Mont Sainte Victoire. Its grandeur is visible practically from everywhere in Aix. Cezanne also loved this white, rugged limestone mountain. He was fascinated how the colors of the mountain changed at different times of the day and in different seasons.

Just like the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai, who painted Mount Fuji many times, Cezanne also immortalized Mont Sainte Victoire again and again. In fact, Cezanne painted this mountain 87 times! Cezanne painted it from different angles, at different times of the day and under different weather conditions.

It is said that Cezanne painted this mountain during a storm and contracted pneumonia!!

Through these paintings, we can see how Cezanne’s painting style changed and evolved over time. In his first landscapes of this iconic mountain, Cézanne places importance to details. However, in his later landscapes, Cezanne’s omits the small details and paints with cubist elements way before the start of  “Cubism Art”.

Paul Cezanne Painting; Mont Sainte Victoire
Paul Cezanne Painting; Mont Sainte Victoire [Public Domain]

Treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything brought into proper perspective”, Cézanne wrote in 1904.

Cézanne’s paintings laid the foundations for the new art movements of the 20th century.

Visit Cezanne’s Open-Air Studio at Terrain des Peintres (Painters Park)

The Painters Park is one of four sites on the ‘Cezanne trail’ in Aix-en-Provence. The park is  only 1km north of Cezanne’s painting studio (Atelier Cezanne) and can be reached by foot. Although not far, it is an uphill climb to the park . However, once you reach the top, you are rewarded with the most spectacular views of Mont Sainte Victoire!

This park is the exact location where Cezanne set up his easel to paint his ‘beloved’ mountain. A visit here will provide you with those timeless views. You will certainly understand why Cezanne returned to this place again and again.

In the park there is a short walking trail (the painters trail).  Along the trail are 8 reproductions of Cezanne’s paintings, giving us a glimpse of how the artist saw this mountain. It is really a special place to visit, especially if you are a Cezanne fan!

Tip: Visit an hour or so before sunset to watch the colors on the mountainside change.

For more information about Paul Cezanne sites in Aix-en-Provence, press here.

Photo of Mont Sainte Victoire
Mont Sainte Victoire / Image by Twalerio from Pixabay 
Mont Sainte Victoire  - Paul Cezanne Painting
The Iconic Mountain of Aix – Paul Cezanne Painting [Public Domain]

Things to do on Mont Sainte Victoire

Mont Sainte Victoire is listed in France as one of the Grand sites . This official label grants the mountain with full national protection by the French law.

This mountain is very popular with both the locals and tourists. To enjoy its beauty, you can either driver around the mountain or if you are feeling more energetic, go hiking or bike riding on the many trails.

Driving around the Mountain:

If you coming from Aix, take the D10 road in the direction of Vauvenargues to drive around Mont Sainte Victoire. The views during this road trip are spectacular! The suggested route below will take you at least half a day, with a few stops at some fabulous places en route:

  1. Bibémus Quarries – the Carrières de Bibémus are old ochre sandstone quarries. The soil is bright orange and the scenery is really spectacular. Paul Cezanne came here often to paint this stunning scenery. There is a wonderful walking trail and it takes no more than an hour. Please note however, that the walking trail is not suited to people with mobility issues
  2. The Garden of Five Senses (Jardin des 5 Sens) in Saint Marc Jaumegarde is a beautiful, colourful & aromatic garden. It is a hidden gem.
  3. Pop in to the lovely village of Vauvenargues. Here you can find some great restaurants and cafes
  4. Try the delicious wines at the vineyard Domaine de Saint Ser & Domaine Sainte Lucie . It is located right by the Mountain and offers incredible views (and wine!!)
  5. Visit Moulin de Cezanne (Cezanne Mill). This old mill has been converted into an art gallery. It is a great stop along the way.
Cezanne's painting of Mont Sainte Victoire from the Bibémus Quarries
Cezanne’s painting of Mont Sainte Victoire from the Bibémus Quarries [Public Domain]

Walking Trails on Mont Sainte-Victoire

Feeling energetic? Sainte-Victoire Mountain offers a variety of walking trails, from easy to difficult. You can hike up from the bottom of the mountain to the very top, or park your car in the various car parks on the mountain itself.

Whatever trail you decide, make sure you wear suitable walking shoes, take with you plenty of water, a sunhat, sunscreen and a camera!!!

From the highest point of the mountain, Pic des Mouches, you are rewarded with the most incredible views of Provence countryside. On a clear days, you can even get views of the sea, the Alps and Mount Ventoux beyond!

For an easy walk around the Mountain, press here for details and a map. For suggested walks on the mountain itself, press here.

Mont Sainte Victoire - French Grand Site
Photo by stephanie de morant (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Looking for a guided tour of Mont Sainte-Victoire & the wonders of Cézanne country in the heart of Provence? Check out the links below:

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