Provence - School of the South

Prices from £2,545


8 Jun 2020 - 13 Jun 2020
Duration: 5 nights
Ref: 20PROV
With: Dr Kathy McLauchlan


Prices from £2,545
Single Supplement: £350
Deposit: £200

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“When you’re born there, it’s hopeless, nothing else is good enough.” So beguiled was Cézanne by his home region of Provence, he is reputed to have spoken these words, and certainly he never tired of painting the area in his lifetime. Cézanne was not alone. It’s no wonder that the area became such a source of inspiration to generations of painters who flocked here to discover and celebrate the artistic qualities of the land, this part of the country somehow distils the very essence of France. Rolling vineyards, olive groves, lavender fields, ancient history and vibrant local markets are united under a warm Mediterranean sky. Our base for this tour is gorgeous Aix-en-Provence. Often described as ‘the little Paris’ owing to a profusion of elegant buildings and fountains, it was the lifelong home of Cézanne, and we will trace the artist’s footsteps here and in the surrounding area. We will also follow the trail of Van Gogh, who created some of his best-loved works during the tempestuous period he spent in Provence. Countless others have been creatively stirred by the beauty of the region and will be encountered on this new Art Pursuits Abroad tour, which combines idyllic scenery with gastronomic pleasures and a broad variety of art and architecture.


"In a letter to his brother from Arles, Vincent Van Gogh wrote that the nature he saw around him appeared so beautiful that painting was equivalent to dreaming. Though his own plans for a ‘studio of the south’ ended in disaster, Provence emerged by the end of the 19th century as a major centre for artistic innovation. With its dramatic landscapes, classical legacy and brilliant light, the region held an irresistible allure for many painters, and its combination of nature and history can still inspire us today"

Dr Kathy McLauchlan is course director of three Year Courses at the V&A Museum. After graduating from Oxford she obtained her PhD from the Courtauld Institute with a thesis on the work of students at the French Academy in Rome. Kathy lectures widely to adult audiences.

DAY 1:

Early afternoon flight from London Heathrow to Marseille. Transfer by private coach to Aix-en-Provence, and our four star hotel. Enjoy a short introductory walk before a group dinner in the hotel restaurant.

DAY 2:

Spend the morning exploring Aix on foot. The spectacular Cathedrale Saint-Sauveur is a fascinating patchwork of architectural styles incorporating Roman, Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque elements. Nearby, the Église de la Madeleine contains a portion of the Aix Annunciation attributed to Barthélemy d'Eyck, an Early Netherlandish artist and illuminator who worked in France. The Musée Granet is our last stop of the morning, with a fabulous array of works by artists such as Ingres, Granet, Picasso and of course Cézanne. In the afternoon, a visit to the Fondation Vasarely offers some serious visual contrast. The highly unusual building was designed by Victor Vasarely himself. Our final visit of the day will be a special private tour of the Atelier Cézanne, the artist’s final home and studio, where an extra treat will be a drinks reception in the artist’s former garden.

DAY 3:

All-day coach excursion to Marseille, the oldest city in France. Our first destination is the Musée des Beaux-Arts in the handsome, colonnaded Palais de Longchamp. Artworks span the 16th to 19th centuries and treasures from the French school include works by David, Courbet, Millet and Daumier. Afterwards, enjoy some free time in the vibrant Old Port area of the city for an independent lunch. In the afternoon, a visit to the Musée Cantini brings our visual journey through French art history into the 20th century, from Derain’s vibrant Fauvist landscapes to Signac’s Pointillist visions of Marseille. Return to Aix via the coastal village of L’Estaque.

DAY 4:

Today our explorations are based around the craggy Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a major landmark of the Aix region and one of Cézanne’s favourite subjects. The strangely sculptural rocks of the majestic Bibémus Quarries also feature in the artist’s work and will be our first stop of the day. We travel on to a local vineyard for a leisurely group lunch before enjoying a tour of the vineyard and a wine tasting session. In the afternoon, Les Jardin de Romégas await. Designed around a typical Aix country house, the lush gardens have been cultivated since the 16th century and contain ornamental pools and fountains, a labyrinth and elegant parterres. Return to Aix for an evening at leisure.

DAY 5:

After breakfast we travel by coach to Arles. A walking tour will take in some of the city’s most interesting sites. Beginning at Les Alyscamps, we head towards les Arènes d'Arles, an impressive two-tiered Roman amphitheatre and on to the Eglise Saint-Trophime, an outstanding example of the Provençal Romesque style. Van Gogh enjoyed a period of great productivity whilst living in Arles between 1888-89 and our meanderings will also take in some of the locations frequented by the artist. After cutting off his left earlobe, Van Gogh was committed to Arles Hospital, today the Espace Van Gogh. Garden of the Hospital in Arles was painted during his stay here and the real garden remains as it was during the artist’s convalescence. The Musée Réattu is our final stop of the morning. Named after the Arles-born painter Jacques Réattu, it contains works by Réattu, as well as drawings by Picasso. In the afternoon we drive to the Saint Paul de Mausole Monastry at Saint Rémy. We return to Aix where we will enjoy a farewell dinner together in a local restaurant.

DAY 6:

After breakfast we check out of our hotel and head for the market for some time at leisure. A final visit will be to the Hôtel de Caumont, a beautiful 18th century mansion which now houses a lovely arts centre. After an independent lunch, we transfer to Marseille airport for our return flight to London Heathrow.


Twin/double share: £2545 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £350
Price of the tour without flights: £2395
Deposit: £300


  • Return flights with British Airways from London Heathrow to Marseille
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Five nights’ bed and breakfast in the four star Grand Hôtel Roi Rene, Aix-en-Provence
  • Two dinners and one lunch
  • Guided visits to sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the Lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters

Grand Hôtel Roi Rene, Aix-en-Provence ****

The four star Grand Hôtel Roi René is a five minute walk from the Cours Mirabeau and the centre of Aix-en-Provence. Relax on the terrace, by the heated swimming pool or take advantage of the hotel's fitness room. The rooms are bright and cosy and feature an en suite bathroom, bathrobe, slippers, hairdryer, tea and coffee making facilities and complimentary Wi-Fi.