Marquis de Sade
Donatien Alphonse-François de Sade was born in Paris in 1740. The word sadism derives from his name. Sade’s family owned territories in three Provençal villages: Lacoste, Saumane, and in Mazan. He is famous – or rather infamous – for his philosophies and writings that endorse complete sexual freedom and a morality based solely on personal pleasure.
For his writings and acts he spent half of his life in prison, which didn’t stop his prolific writing. At one point he fled to his castle in Lacoste for three years, perched high in the Luberon Mountains. All of his works have been controversial and many banned. The ruins of his castle in Lacoste were purchased by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who now holds regular theater festivals there.
Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence in 1839, and became one of the most important painters of the impressionist era.
He formed a close relationship with the novelist Emile Zola, through whom he met Pissarro and came to know the others of the impressionist group.
Going back and forth from Paris to Provence for much of his life as a painter, Cézanne retreated into isolation back in Aix-en-Provence near the end of his life.
There, he focused – or rather obsessed – on the Sainte-Victoire mountain, which he would paint over and over, trying to capture its shape and essence. He was the inspiration for many of his contemporaries, especially in the cubist movement.
Vincent Van Gogh
Vincent Van Gogh was born in Holland but is considered the most Provençal of the Dutch painters. Attracted to Provence for its colour and luminosity, Van Gogh spent time in the city of Arles before voluntarily admitting himself to a mental asylum in nearby Saint-Rémy de Provence in 1889. There, he found the serene and understanding environment he needed to concentrate on his art – not to mention the sheer beauty of the surroundings.
During his year’s stay in Saint-Rémy he completed over 150 paintings, considered a major part of his life’s work. You can visit the institution where he stayed – converted into a museum depicting his life in Saint Rémy. You can also walk through the streets of Saint Rémy on the “Van Gogh trail”: a series of reproductions of his paintings facing the landscape that inspired each one, complete with explanations.
Born in the village of Maillane in Provence in 1830, Frédéric Mistral is probably the best known of the Provençal poets and writers. He was the founder of the Félibrige movement, making it his life’s work trying to restore knowledge and pride of the Provençal language (the language of Provence at the time, which was slowly being replaced by French). He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1904 for his contributions to literature. Still today, in the 32 departments of France where Provençal was spoken, there are organizations that continue in Mistral’s footsteps, trying to conserve and revive the Provençal language.
Born in 1895, Jean Giono was a French author renowned for his works of fiction set in Provence.
He was born and lived for many years in Manosque, Haute Provence. He left his job as a bank empoyee in 1930 to dedicate himself to writing on a full-time basis, after the success of his first novel, "Colline". He celebrated nature in his texts, with works set in Provence and whose rich and diverse imagery has been widely admired.
Among his most famous writings are the three novels of his "Pan Trilogy", which allude to the Greek God Pan and pantheism: "Colline", "Un de Baumugnes", and "Regain". He is also well known for the book Voyage in Italy and the short story The Man who Planted Trees.
Born February 28, 1895 in Aubagne, near Marseille. At the age of 15, he wrote his first play and followed in his father's footsteps and became an English teacher for secondary schools. He stopped teaching when he went to Paris, instead devoting his life to playwriting. His first professional play, "Merchants of Glory", was produced in 1924. In 1929 he wrote "Marius" for the Paris Theatre. Marius would also be later turned into a film in 1931, Pagnol's first film.
Pagnol's novel "L’eau des Collines" was adapted from his two films "Jean de Florette" and "Manon des sources". Pagnol’s love and veneration for the Provençal countryside comes out in both these works. These films were remade to international acclaim in the 1980s by Claude Berri. Pagnol's affectionate reminiscences of childhood, "La Gloire de mon père" and "Le Château de ma Mère" were filmed successfully in 1990.