Last year, quite by chance, we spent The European Heritage Days in Paris poking around buildings and gardens which are not normally readily accessible by the public. This is a widely celebrated participatory cultural event launched in 1985 in France and now embraced by all 50 European States with the shared objective of promoting common understanding of cultural diversity, local skills and traditions, architectural styles and works of art that form part of the European Heritage.
These events happen all over, not just in the major cities. Here in Cagnes sur Mer, they hold a celebratory event at Auguste Renoir’s former house (now a museum) on the Sunday. Everyone’s encouraged to dress in the Belle Epoque style and enjoy a picnic – you know how the French enjoy a picnic – under the olive trees in Renoir’s garden.
Yes, one of the great masters of Impressionism, Renoir built his house-workshop in Cagnes sur Mer in 1908 where he lived until his death, painting over 720 canvases. Consequently, many artists settled in Cagnes sur Mer, which became know as “the little Montmartre of the Côte d’Azur!”
Here’s a video of a small piece from French television from a couple of years ago to give you some idea of the day’s events.
In case you were wondering, Dejeurner sur l’Herbe was, of course, a painting by Manet, another of the great Impressionists, which was turned into a film by Jean Renoir – no relation.
In order to maintain the 1900s theme coolers are forbidden, unless you can hide them in wicker style baskets and you’re encouraged to bring a white or checked tablecloth to complete the picture.
Of course, it’s not just about the picnic, there’s a whole day of events:-
- Lace-making demonstration by Les Dentelières. From 10:00 am – 05:00 pm under the lime trees
- Ride in vintage cars from the town centre to the Renoir museum, departing at 10:30 am
- Flora and fauna walks in the Renoir Garden’s starting at the farm from 02:30 pm
- Old-timer car exhibition 04:00 pm in front of Renoir’s House
- Games of yesteryear from 10:00 am – 04:00 pm
- Musical entertainment
I’ll be honest, I’ve visited the museum and gardens numerous times. It gives you a very personal view of the artist, his daily life, and the importance of his family. You can even go into his studio and see his brushes and the last paint colours he was using. It was Renoir’s family home for the last 12 years of his life and although he filled it with his sculptures, paintings, furnishings, photographs and personal effects, understandably not all his works remain. It’s a charming spot, well worth a visit but I’ve not yet had a picnic in the grounds – Maybe, next year.