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Matisse & Collioure

Henri Matisse got off the train in the coastal village of Collioure in 1905 at the age of 36. He was relatively unknown at the time. But the southern light he saw that day would be the inspiration behind his soon to be famous name.

Matisse immediately sent a post card to his friend André Derain that said, “Venez!”. At the age of 25 Derain followed the invitation and together the two painted under the light of Collioure all summer.

It was this very light of Collioure that gave Matisse ideas for new uses of color, uses Parisian critics called beastly, or “fauve.” And so the fauvist movement was born. Despite the negative commentary, fauvism eventually gained respect. Gertrude Stein was the first to buy one of the fauve paintings, and soon after, foreign collectors bought as well.

Many other artists like Picasso, Dufy, Chagall and Marquet were also inspired by Collioure. Today artists still flock to the village for inspiration. The Museum of Modern Art in Collioure was founded in 1930 and houses contemporary and modern works from the likes of Cocteau, Camoin, Pignon, Valtat, Balbino Giner, Descossy and Perrot.

If you prefer to see the real deal, you can follow the pedestrian trail called the Chemin de Fauvism to see through famous painters’ eyes. The trail marks specific sites where easels were set up and displays copies of the paintings next to the real scene laid out before you. Or follow the ghosts of painters past at Les Templiers, a restaurant and bar with its own collection of works from the painters who used to frequent the place.

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