Being an “artist” is not something easy to define. The artist lives in another dimension, his environment is extended, his mind is open. He travels without moving, he has no territory and belongs to the world. But nevertheless, he’s always a human being and, as such, he needs inspirations. Artists feed on everything around them.
The places they observe, the reality in which they live, are often the first point from which their art takes shape. There are places that have become famous thanks to the brushes of the great painters of history: places that it’s possible to visit physically, living the sensations of being in the same point of view immortalized by paintings that have become famous. Below you can find eight real places taken from great paintings, including facilities like cafes and restaurants that still exist today. Curiosity will lead you to discover the stories behind them.
Café Terrace at Night
by Vincent Van Gogh
Place: Café Van Gogh, Place du Forum, Arles (France)
Vincent van Gogh is undoubtedly one of the most popular and productive artists of all time. This 1888 painting represents one of his most famous post-impressionist works. Van Gogh painted it at night, in a letter to his sister he said: “the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day”. The yellow of the walls plays against the blue-black of the street background and the purple-blue door in the foreground. The silhouette of the starry sky is the culmination of the whole picture, the poetic idea of the work: the double illumination and the contrast between the Café and the night sky. The scattered discs of the stars are matched in the elliptical tables below. The coffee in the painting still exists and has rightly been renamed Café van Gogh.
The Water-Lily Pond
by Claude Monet
Place: Fondation Claude Monet, Giverny, France
The water lilies represent the complete cycle of paintings made by Monet in the last thirty years of his life. There are about 250 works from the Japanese Garden of Giverny. The artist painted his gardens for the rest of his life, even if his vision has begun to weaken. The most interesting thing for Monet’s chromatic experimentation was white color. The white water flowers are showered with the light of the invisible sky, which appears darker in the aquatic reflection; they assume shades of blue, pink and green, in a chromatic concert of reciprocal influences caused by the reverberation of colored lights. As an impressionist, Claude Monet revisited subjects in different light and time conditions, capturing his “impressions” with loose brushstrokes and brave colours. Monet’s House and Gardens are open to the public and can be visited, retracing exactly what his pictorial atelier was.
Dance at le Moulin de la Galette
by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
Place: Le Moulin de la Galette, paris, France
For centuries Montmartre has been the paradisiacal district of the artists. Many painters have captured the most famous monuments, and one of them was Le Moulin de la Galette. A meeting places where one could entertain, discuss, converse, enjoying indeed a good galette. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, as a frequent visitor of the place, captured his true spirit in his painting Bal du moulin de la Galette, in 1876. The canvas give off a sense of freshness and joy, obtained with the light colours and the smiles that animate the faces. The unity of the whole is due to the mobility of light, distributed in pink, yellow and blue spots on the clothes. The”flickering” impression reproduces the light tricks played in real life in the open spaces. Today it’s still possible to dine in a restaurant under the windmill, savoring the spirit of the old Bohémienne life.
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa
by Katsushika Hokusai
Place: Kanagawa (today Higashi-Kanagawa station in Yokohama), Japan
The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is a woodcut in ukiyo-e style made by the Japanese painter Hokusai, published the first time between 1830 and 1831. The print is full of vibrant colors: theatmospheric pink and grey in the sky, deep Prussian blue in the folds of the sea. The fishing boats are lost in the waves, while the great wall of water, with its finger-like branches, threatens to swallow both the boats and the small Mount Fuji in the background. Woodblock’s prints are easy to reproduce, so there are several copies of The Great Wave distributed around the world: the British Museum in London, the LACMA in Los Angeles and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The city of Kanagawa grew up in 1800 into the metropolis of Yokohama, 30 km south of Tokyo. If you go to the harbor and takw a boat, you can view the same perspective of The Great Wave, with Mount Fuji in the distance. Just be careful with the nervous water.
Bedroom in Arles
by Vincent Van Gogh
Place: 2 Place Lamartine in Arles, France
There are three paintings made by Vincent Van Gogh about his picturesque bedroom in the “yellow house” in Arles, France. Called simply “bedroom” or “la Chambre à coucher” (in french), these works were intended to show the calm and simplicity where the dutch painter slept. The artist rented four rooms in the now famous “yellow house”, which was located at the 2 Place Lamartine in Arles, France. The house was damaged by a bombing during World War II in 1944 and was later demolished. Going to that address today, you will find only one sign that commemorates this historical point of reference. Travellers looking for a taste of the Arles room in the Netherlands, however, can rent the ‘Van Gogh Room’ at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam. They will have the impression to live in the painting.
by Paul Cézanne
Place: Mont Sainte Victoire Aix-en-Provence, France
The series of paintings of the Mont Sainte-Victoire by Paul Cézanne inspired an entire generation of cubists. Cézanne used the geometry and the very specific use of color to inform the viewer of the distance, illuminating at the same time the pure essence of his subject. The painter represented this big mountain more than eighty times in his life, rendering the emotion of light with his brushes. Cézanne Atelier is a strong tourist attraction in the country and not far away you can admire the impressive mountain, perhaps observing it during the various phases of the day to capture with your eyes the different facets of light.
by Edward Munch
Place: Valhallveien Road, Oslo, Norway
Edvard Munch’s The Scream is the best example of the anguish that has always been represented by the great Norwegian Artist. It expresses a powerful metaphor: while the bridge in real life is idyllic and picturesque, Munch’s extreme anxiety as he walked on it during sunset inspired his disturbing composition. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that the bridge was at that time an obsession of Munch’s schizophrenic sister. According to Sue Prideaux, the bridge was a sadly popular place for suicides. The Scream Bridge is located in Oslo, Norway, along the Valhallveien Road, close to the Ekeberg Hill.
A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte
by Georges Seurat
Place: La Grande Jatte, Paris
This is definitely the most famous picture by Georges Seurat. The subject of the picture is typical of an impressionist painting: a scene of urban life lived with cheerfulness and thoughtlessness, but with a stasis and immobility that gives the idea that time has completely stopped, frozen. There is a considerable crowd, People walking, sitting on the ground, smoking, fishing. On the water of the river you can see sails and rowers passing by. The figures are defined by a very evident outline. The space appears completely sharp with a good focus, contrary to the impressionist canvases where everything is vaguely undefined and mobile. Live again this painting is simple, you just have to go to the island: La Grande Jatte is just an island of Paris, in the middle of the Seine. A huge oasis of gardens where you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city, just 7 km far from Notre Dame cathedral. A relaxing retreat in a garden of the city center.