Picasso's Provence

The south of France is Cézanne country, but this summer it's all about Picasso. His château is open through September, and you'll see his work everywhere—even in a rock quarry.

Projections of Picasso's work onto rock-quarry walls, at the Cathédrale d'Images

When Pablo Picasso moved to Provence in his 70s in 1959, it was partly to escape the glare of public life in Cannes, but mostly to be closer to Ste.-Victoire, the mountain near Aix-en-Provence that served as the subject of more than 40 paintings by Paul Cézanne, whom Picasso called "my one and only master." After buying Château de Vauvenargues, at the base of the mountain, Picasso contacted his dealer, Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler. "I have just bought Cézanne's Ste.-Victoire," he boasted. "Which one?" the dealer asked, assuming Picasso was referring to a painting. "The original!" the artist replied.

Together with Jacqueline Roque, the lover he picked up at a pottery studio and later married, Picasso lived in the 13th-century estate until 1961. It's been off-limits to the public ever since, but through September 27, fans can finally get an inside look. Brushes and paints lie scattered around Picasso's studio, and the mandolin that appears in many of his paintings is in his bedroom. In the garden, the couple's gravestones sit side by side—Picasso's is topped with his 1933 sculpture Woman With a Vase. Advance reservations have sold out, but same-day tickets go on sale each morning at 8:30 a.m. at the Hôtel de Valori (36 rue Cardinale, Aix-en-Provence, 011-33/4-42-16-10-91, $10.25).

Although Cézanne and Picasso never worked together—they were 42 years apart in age—the two artists shared a fascination with shifting perspectives. Cézanne often painted the same subject several times, in different lights, and Picasso played with perspective in his cubist works. The "Picasso-Cézanne" show at the Musée Granet, in Aix-en-Provence, is the first to examine the connection in such depth. Two Cézanne pieces from Picasso's private collection are on display, including a version of Five Bathers, from a series that inspired Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. And works from Picasso's period of Cézannian cubism, like Woman With a Mandolin, show the older man's influence. The biggest draw is a series of paintings that Picasso completed at the château. You can reserve tickets online via museegranet-aixenprovence.fr (through Sept. 27, place St. Jean de Malte, Aix-en-Provence, 011-33/4-42-52-87-97, $13.25).

Many other shows across the region will also celebrate Picasso (see picassoenprovencecotedazur.com). One of the most fascinating is at the Cathédrale d'Images, in Les Baux-de-Provence. Fifty years ago, Picasso acted in Jean Cocteau's Testament of Orpheus, filmed in a limestone quarry here. This summer the quarry, now a cave-like gallery, is home to a Picasso exhibit in which his paintings are projected onto the irregular stone walls, which reach up to 40 feet high, and accompanied by music from Miles Davis and Vivaldi. It's an entirely new perspective on Picasso's work (rte. de Maillane, 011-33/4-90-54-38-65, cathedrale-images.com, $10, through Jan. 3).

And When You're Done With the Art

SLEEP
La Bastide de Cabriès All 12 rooms in this 15th-century manor have views of the Provençal countryside (rue du Lac, Domaine du Lac Bleu, Cabriès, 011-33/4-42-69-07-81, bastidecabries.com, from $125).

Le Mas d'Entremont With a park, a pond, a tree-lined swimming pool, a tennis court, and a gym, you could spend an entire weekend exploring this estate (315 rte. d'Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, 011-33/4-42-17-42-42, masdentremont.com, from $198).

EAT
Le Bistro Latin The spot for updated takes on rustic Provençal classics. The steak comes with caramelized cabbage, and the crème brûlée is flavored with vanilla from Madagascar (18 rue de la Couronne, Aix-en-Provence, 011-33/4-42-38-22-88, three-course menu from $30).

DON'T MISS
Stock up on calissons, a favorite local candy made from almonds, crystallized melon, and orange peel ground together into a pointy oval shape. Béchard sells them in pretty red or white boxes (12 cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence, 011-33/4-42-26-06-78, $4.50 for 100 grams).

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