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Travel Like A Painting: Assouline's Latest Book Explores The Inexhaustible Beauty of Provence, France

Like A Painting: Assouline's Latest Book Explores The Inexhaustible Beauty of Provence, France

The history of Château de Cassis dates back to the Middle Ages; A map of Provence in the South of France.
The history of Château de Cassis dates back to the Middle Ages; A map of Provence in the South of France.
By Dorynna Untivero
By Dorynna Untivero
April 13, 2021
Titled Provence Glory, Assouline’s latest book celebrates the infinite beauty of this French region

Even Vincent Van Gogh had difficulty depicting just how picturesque he found Provence. He wrote his brother Theo in 1889, “It’s too beautiful for me to dare paint it or be able to form an idea of it.” So with Paul Cézanne who, legend has it, braved a storm just to paint the beauty emanating from the refract- ed colours in the rain. The deep passion for the region of painters such as Van Gogh and Cézanne starts off the book, Provence Glory, published by Assouline. Across 157 pages is an invitation to discover its nature and why everyone falls in love with Provence again and again.

Located southeast of the French capital, Provence has a life of its own—unapologetic, colourful and captivating. It’s a place that demands passion for life, adventure and beauty. Endless landscapes abound and vibrant hues greet the eyes everywhere they turn opalescent waters, energetic restaurants and fields that stretch unceasingly, boasting one shade of green after the other. Here, you get to experience the allure of old-world France but the excitement of subdued modernity.

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Provence Glory brings together photos from different parts of the region and different moments in time. Black and white pictures and paintings are juxtaposed with stunning seaside views and panoramic meadows. Every frame captured on film doubles as a painting, as if Van Gogh himself had arduously created it on a blank canvas. It’s a book that will remind you to dream of returning to Provence tomorrow, the next day and the day after that.

Locally grown fruits and vegetables, street-side cafés, bucolic shops...arresting stolen shots give you a glimpse of life in Aix, the former capital of Provence; laidback yet interminably enchanting, quaint little places rival its stoic charm. Marseille, on the other hand, is captured through stunning seaside pictures and colourful ocean scapes.

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On the streets of Marseille.
Sunflowers in full bloom at the market in Aix-en-Provence.
A view of Mont Ventoux from Lacoste
 

There’s a different energy in this city: it is artful, alive and electrifying.

“I fell in love with Marseille when I was a teenager. I grew up in the countryside, but I was obsessed with Marseille and the seaside, and I loved going there on the weekend and having a swim,” designer Simon Porte Jacquemus is quoted in the book. There’s a different energy in this city: it is artful, alive and electrifying. Look through stills of peerless moments in locals smiling at the camera lovingly and in late nights (or rather early mornings) captured on film.

Of Arles a few miles away, art collector Maja Hoffmann writes, “[It] is a sleeping beauty. Many of the scenes painted by Van Gogh remain completely unchanged as if time has stood still.” Another face of Provence is pictured in Arles. Melancholy and romance with one solemn countryside after another fill the section on Arles. Photos that play with light offer a glimpse of lonely evenings. There is a sombre feeling as one browses through the snaps of Arles; there is a mystery in each picture like a thought caught at the tip of your tongue.

“How to chart Provence on a map? To attempt it is laughable.” Provence Glory opens with this statement. Each page is indeed an attempt to capture the region’s many faces. It quivers with life yet, in the same breath, evokes a solemnity with every scenic location frozen in time. Even those who call it home can’t help but revel in its magnetism.

From the cool breeze of the Mediterranean Sea, ochre buildings of La Roque Alric and crowded galleries in Marseille, to striking lavender fields and calming greenery stretching beyond the page, Assouline’s latest release
is a rediscovery of the region’s inexhaustible magic. Though many famous names have become synonymous to the region, Provence still proves to be an undefeatable attraction. Quoting the book: “It would take many moons to no longer feel the vibes of Braque, Léger, Miró, Prévert, César, Calder . . . Tarantino, Marion Cotillard, Guillaume Canet and a few bodyguards in dark glasses may come, but, oddly enough, the smell of the fig trees prevails once again—the list of names, albeit famous, cannot vie with this land.”

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Provence Glory will give you comfort and remind you of rustic evenings and Provençal cooking— fresh produce, rich flavours.

“When the Good Lord begins to doubt the world, he remembers that he created Provence,” writer Frédéric Mistral beautifully says. For those who cannot wait to visit again, Provence Glory will give you comfort and remind you of rustic evenings and Provençal cooking— fresh produce, rich flavours—and moments made unforgettable by an endless array of poignant terrains.

Here is the glory of Provence— Assouline remarks proudly with each flip of the page—it is vast and self-perpetuating. A notion echoed by the countless paintings and literature cast in history by artists who dared capture its brilliance.

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