From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Language and literature
Historically the language spoken in Provence was Provençal, a dialect of the Occitan language, also known as langue d'oc, and closely related to Catalan. There are several regional variations: vivaro-alpin, spoken in the Alps; and the provençal variations of south, including the maritime, the rhoadanien (in the Rhone Valley) and the niçois (in Nice). Niçois is the archaic form of provençal closest to the original language of the troubadors, and is sometimes to said to be literary language of its own.
Provençal was widely spoken in Provence until the beginning of the 20th century, when the French government launched an intensive and largely successful effort to replace regional languages with French. Today Provençal is taught in schools and universities in the region, but is spoken regularly by a small number of people, probably less than five hundred thousand, mostly elderly.
Writers and poets in the Occitan Language
The golden age of Provençal Literature, more correctly called Occitan literature, was the 11th century and the 12th century, when the troubadours broke away from classical Latin literature and composed romances and love songs in their own vernacular language. Among the most famous troubadours was Folquet de Marseille, whose love songs became famous all over Europe, and who was praised by Dante in his Divine Comedy. In his later years, Folquet gave up poetry to become the Abbot of Le Thoronet Abbey, and then Bishop of Toulouse, where he fiercely persecuted the Cathars.
In the middle of the 19th century there was a literary movement to revive the language, called the Félibrige, led by the poet Frédéric Mistral ([1830–1914), who shared the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1904.
Provençal writers and poets who wrote in Occitan include:
- Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (1180–1207)
- Bellaud de la Bellaudière (1543–1588)
- Théodore Aubanel (1829–1886)
- Joseph d'Arbaud (1874–1950)
- Robert Lafont (1923– )
- Alphonse Daudet (1840–1897) was the best-known French writer from Provence in the 19th century, though he lived mostly in Paris and Champrosay. He was best known for his Lettres de mon moulin (eng: Letters from my Mill) (1869) and the Tartarin de Tarascon trilogy (1872, 1885,1890). His story L'Arlésienne (1872) was made into a three-act play with music by Bizet.
- Marcel Pagnol (1895–1970), born in Aubagne, is known both as a filmmaker and for his stories of his childhood, Le Château de la Mere, La Gloire de mon Pere, and Le Temps des secrets. He was the first filmmaker to become a member of the Académie française in 1946.
- Colette (Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette) (1873–1954), although she was not from Provence, became particularly attached to Saint-Tropez. After World War II, she headed a committee which saw that the village, badly-damaged by the war, was restored to its original beauty and character
- Jean Giono (1895–1970), born in Manosque, wrote about peasant life in Provence, inspired by his imagination and by his vision of Ancient Greece.
- Paul Arène (1843–1896), born in Sisteron, wrote about life and the countryside around his home town.
Emigrés, exiles, and expatriates
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the climate and lifestyle of Provence attracted writers almost as much as it attracted painters. It was particularly popular among British, American and Russian writers in the 1920s and 1930s,.
- Edith Wharton (1862–1937), bought Castel Sainte-Claire in 1927, on the site of a former convent in the hills above Hyères, where she lived during the winters and springs until her death in 1937.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) and his wife Zelda first visited the Riviera in 1924, stopping at Hyères, Cannes and Monte Carlo, eventually staying at St. Raphaël, where he wrote much of The Great Gatsby and began Tender is the Night.
- Ivan Bunin (1870–1953), the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, went to France after the Russian Revolution, set several of his short stories on the Côte d'Azur, and had a house in Grasse.
- Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) bought a house, the Villa Mauresque, in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 1928, and, except for the years of World War II, spent much of his time there until his death.
Other English-speaking writers who live in or have written about Provence include:
Music written about Provence includes:
- The saxophone concerto Tableaux de Provence (Pictures of Provence) composed by Paule Maurice.
- The opera Mireille by Charles Gounod after Frédéric Mistral's poem Mireio.
- Georges Bizet, 'L'Arlésienne' incidental music to play by Alphonse Daudet.
- Darius Milhaud, 'Suite Provençale'
Artists have been painting in Provence since prehistoric times; paintings of bisons, seals, penguins and horses dating to between 27,000 and 19,000 b.c. were found in the Cosquer Cave near Marseille.
The 14th century wooden ceiling of the cloister of Fréjus Cathedral has a remarkable series of paintings of biblical scenes, fantastic animals, and scenes from daily life, painted between 1350 and 1360. They include paintings of a fallen angel with the wings of a bat, a demon with the tail of a serpent, angels playing instruments, a tiger, an elephant, an ostrich, domestic and wild animals, a mermaid, a dragon, a centaur, a butcher, a knight, and a juggler.
Nicolas Froment (1435–1486) was the most important painter of Provence during the Renaissance, best known for his triptych of the Burning Bush,(around 1476) commissioned by King René I of Naples. The painting shows the Annunciation to the shepherds, with the Virgin Mary and Christ above the burning bush. The wings of the triptych show King Rene with Mary Magdalen, St. Anthony and St. Maurice on one side, and Queen Jeanne de Laval, with Saint Catherine, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Nicholas on the other.
Louis Bréa (1450–1523) was a 15th century painter, born in Nice, whose work is found in churches from Genoa to Antibes. His Retable of Saint-Nicholas (1500) is found in Monaco, and his Retable de Notre-Dame-de-Rosaire (1515) is found in Antibes.
Pierre Paul Puget (1620–1694), born in Marseille, was a painter of portraits and religious scenes, but was better known for his sculptures, found in Toulon Cathedral, outside the city hall of Toulon, and in the Louvre. There is mountain named for him near Marseille, and a square in Toulon.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, many of the most famous painters in the world converged on Provence, drawn by the climate and the clarity of the light. The special quality of the light is partly a result of the Mistral wind, which removes dust from the atmosphere, greatly increasing visibility.
- Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), was born in Aix-en-Provence, and lived and worked there most of his life. The local landscapes, particularly Montagne Sainte-Victoire, featured often in his work. He also painted frequently at L'Estaque.
- Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). Van Gogh lived little more than two years in Provence, but his fame as a painter is largely a result of what he painted there. He lived in Arles from February 1888 to May 1889, and then in Saint-Remy from May 1889 until May 1890.
- Auguste Renoir (1841–1919). Renoir visited Beaulieu, Grasse, Saint Raphael and Cannes, before finally settling in Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1907, where he bought a farm in the hills and built a new house and workshop on the grounds. He continued to paint there until his death in 1919. His house is now a museum.
- Henri Matisse (1869–1954). Matisse first visited St. Tropez in 1904. In 1917 he settled in Nice, first at the Hotel Beau Rivage, then the Hotel de la Mediterranée, then la Villa des Allies in Cimiez. In 1921 he lived in an apartment at 1 place Felix Faure in Nice, next to the flower market and overlooking the sea, where he lived until 1938. He then moved to the Hotel Regina in the hills of Cimiez, above Nice. During World War II he lived in Vence, then returned to Cimiez, where he died and is buried.
- Pablo Picasso (1881–1973). Picasso spent each summer from 1919 to 1939 on the Côte d'Azur, and moved there permanently in 1946, first at Vallauris, then at Mougins, where he spent his last years.
- Pierre Bonnard (1867–1947). Bonnard retired to and died at Le Cannet.
- Georges Braque (1882–1963). Braque painted frequently at L'Estaque between 1907 and 1910.
- Henri-Edmond Cross (1856–1910). Cross discovered the Côte d'Azur in 1883 and painted at Monaco and Hyeres.
- Maurice Denis (1870–1943.) Denis painted at St. Tropez and Bandol.
- André Derain (1880–1954). Derain painted at L'Estaque and Martigues.
- Raoul Dufy (1877–1953), whose wife was from Nice, painted in Forcalquier, Marseille and Martigues.
- Albert Marquet (1873–1947), painted at Marseille, St. Tropez and L'Estaque.
- Claude Monet (1840–1927). Monet visited Menton, Bordighera, Juan-les-Pins, Monte-Carlo, Nice, Cannes, Beaulieu and Villefranche,and painted a number of seascapes of Cap Martin, near Menton, and at Cap d'Antibes.
- Edvard Munch (1863–1944.) Munch visited and painted in Nice and Monte-Carlo (where he developed a passion for gambling), and rented a villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 1891.
- Paul Signac (1863–1935). Signac visited St. Tropez in 1892, and bought a villa, La Hune, at the foot of citadel in 1897. It was at his villa that his friend, Henri Matisse, painted his famous Luxe, Calme et Volupté" in 1904. Signac made numerous paintings along the coast.
- Pierre Deval (1897–1993), a French modernist and figurist painter, lived and worked at the Domaine d'Orvès in La Valette-du-Var from 1925 until his death in 1993.
Source and Bibliography about artists on the Mediterranean
- Méditerrranée de Courbet á Matisse, catalog of the exhibit at the Grand Palais, Paris from September 2000 to January 2001. Published by the Réunion des musées nationaux, 2000.
Provence has a special place in the history of the motion picture – one of the first projected motion pictures, L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (eng: the entry of a train into the station of Ciotat), a fifty-second silent film, was made by Auguste and Louis Lumière at the train station of the coastal town of La Ciotat. It was shown to an audience in Paris on December 28, 1895, causing a sensation.
Before its commercial premiere in Paris, the film was shown to invited audiences in several French cities, including La Ciotat. It was shown at the Eden Theater in September 1895, making that theater one of the first motion picture theaters, and the only of the first theaters still showing movies in 2009.
Three other of the earliest Lumiere films, Partie de cartes, l'Arroseur arrosé (the first known filmed comedy), and Repas de bébé, were also filmed in La Ciotat in 1895, at the Villa du Clos des Plages, the summer residence of the Lumiere Brothers.
- Provençal dialect
- French Riviera
- List of rulers of Provence
- Mas (Provençal farmhouse)
- Saintes Maries de la Mer
- Saint Sarah
- Santon (figurine)