Musee Renoir – an insight into Renoir’s life in Cagnes-sur-mer

Do you love art enough to be interested in the story behind it? In the hills above sleepy little Cagnes sur Mer on the French Riviera coastline, hides a real treat for art lovers, especially fans of Pierre Auguste Renoir. A short walk from the centre of Cagnes-sur-mer, Renoir’s final home, now open to the public, is a beautiful sanctuary overlooking olive groves and the glittering Mediterranean. It’s easy to see why, when driven to a warmer climate by agonising rheumatoid arthritis, Renoir chose to live there.

World-famous artists seem quite untouchable at times, unreal almost, so it is incredible to be able to walk through the house that was once his home, and see some of the views he painted.

Visitors approach the house through lush Mediterranean gardens and, as you climb the hill, a view to the left across an olive grove exposes a view of nearby Chateau Grimaldi perched upon the opposite hill. A sign displays Renoir’s painting ‘Landscape at Les Calottes’ of the same view, which really makes you feel you are tracing the exact footsteps of the artist.

Musee Renoir, Cagnes-sur-mer, France

The house itself is characterful with old photos of Renoir and his family giving an idea of the lives lived there. Visitors can see Renoir’s studio and marvel at the enormous windows that bathe the room in the magnificent Provencal light. A few rooms have become gallery spaces displaying paintings by Renoir and other artists, while other rooms such as the sitting room, dining room and bathroom have been left containing some of the original features and furniture.

The house is perched halfway up a hillside covered in olive trees. On a summer day the house is bathed in warm sunshine, while the olive trees provide welcome shade. I’ve long admired Renoir’s intricate depiction of light in his paintings and while walking around the gardens, and even the house, the magical light is really remarkable.

Renoir’s studio, Cagnes-sur-mer, France

In a second building a video about Renoir’s filmmaker son Jean Renoir plays in both French and English.

The house and gardens are beautiful and well worth a visit, even if you are not a huge fan of Renoir. Stepping onto the verandah of Renoir’s home and glancing across the olive trees to the sea really offers a little taste of Mediterranean paradise. It’s easy to get to too – only a five-minute walk from the centre of bus stop!

Before you go: Watch the 2012 movie ‘Renoir’.

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