Art: Inventing a Sensory Utopia

The paintings Matisse did in Nice include some of his best

"The grand object of travelling," said Samuel Johnson, "is to see the shores of the Mediterranean." The maxim had a special force among artists from the early 1900s to the eve of World War II. It applied to one particular shore: the Cote d'Azur, that strip of Provence that runs from Nice to Hyeres. If ever a littoral was changed from a place to an idea by the efforts of painters, this one was it. Paul Cezanne, a Provencal rooted in the limestone and red clay of his native Aix, had made backcountry Provence around Mont Ste.-Victoire one of the sacred...

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