It is a well-documented fact that my trips to Giverny have been sabotaged for over ten years now. I’m hoping that this coming summer will be my time for Claude Monet’s spirit to sit atop my shoulder and finally guide me to his home and gardens.

To add to my frustration, for three years in a row we hadn’t been able to visit Renoir’s home in Cagnes-sur-Mer due to renovations. I was starting to think that I had left a bad ‘impression’ on the ghosts of the Impressionist painters! Before our trip to the Côte d’Azur last summer, I decided to find out if Renoir’s home/musée was opened to the public. It was difficult to type on the keyboard with my fingers crossed, but I was on a mission! Ahhh, que j’ai été heureuse! We would finally be taking a little morning trip to Cagnes-sur-Mer!

Are you the type of person who goes to a museum, looks at a painting and closes your eyes to open your imagination? Do you visualize yourself in that painting? Call me delusional, but that’s what I do. Visiting Renoir’s home was just like being transported back a century and then some. The walk up the path to the maison was full of lush greenery and beautifully scented flowers. The trees hid any sign of modern times. A sculpture of his wife Aline, in her wonderfully ample body, warmly welcomed us with open arms.

The home, although magnificent, was not lavish or overdone. If those wooden floors and the plastered walls could talk, the stories they could tell would have had me enchanted for days! The rooms’ airy lightness reflected the contented personality of Renoir that came through in his paintings. I kid you not: when I stepped into his large studio, Vincent had to stop me from taking off my clothes and posing in front of the canvas that was displayed!

Paintings from Renoir and other artists hung on the walls, and the most impressive rooms were the rooms that showcased his sculptures. Maybe I’m just so in awe of Renoir’s paintings that I had no idea that he created so many beautiful sculptures – they were a great surprise!

The view from the home’s terrace offered an amazing panorama. Even though contemporary buildings were scattered throughout, with eyes squinted I could erase all but the view of treetops and the line of blue sea. I could almost feel Pierre-Auguste’s warm breath on the back of my neck and his hand on mine.

If you visit the Côte d’Azur, please try to visit Renoir’s home in Cagnes-sur-Mer. It is a lovely, charming way to spend a long lazy morning or afternoon. It’s magical, it really is. But be warned – you’ll definitely want to return!

©2015 Catherine Urbanski

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