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L’Atelier de Christian Choisy

St. Paul de Vence, oil on board by Jack Davis

If you have never visited the picturesque and historic mountain village of St. Paul de Vence, you’re truly missing out on a Provencal gem, and it is an absolute must-see for art lovers in particular. This tiny village perched on a narrow spur between two deep valleys dates back to medieval times, and it is perhaps best known for the famous creative folk who once stayed there: artists Matisse, Soutine, Chagall, Renoir, Modigliani… as well as writers, film directors, scriptwriters, and French and international stars like Roger Moore and Tony Curtis.

Legend has it that when the impoverished artists didn’t have money to pay for room and board, they would pay with their artwork. The hotels La Colombe d’Or (then Le Robinson) and Pergola (then La Résidence) run by Paul Roux and Ferdinand Issert, respectively, were popular lodgings for artists in the early 1900s. At La Colombe d’Or, you can still wander the halls and dine surrounded by the ghosts of Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Miro, Calder and others who have left behind sketches, paintings, sculpture or poetry. Marc Chagall is buried in the cemetery at St. Paul de Vence, and you may visit his grave, marked simply with a white tombstone, to pay your respects.

It’s no surprise, then, that art remains an integral part of the community in St. Paul de Vence, which houses several artists’ studios and galleries. As we came up the Rue de la Tour to the right of the main entrance, a long, highly textured painting caught my eye. Bold coral paint had been laid thickly into the shape of three rosebuds, and next to the roses stood three roughly painted boxy silhouettes of people or ghosts, I wasn’t sure. I paused. I was standing in front of the studio of Christian Choisy (or l’Atelier de Christian Choisy).

Once inside, I found myself drawn to a large black and white painting where two sad-looking figures stood one behind the other in an intimate embrace next to a window and what I imagined might be a piano. I perused the other paintings in the studio, but kept coming back to this one, the Tristesse en novembre (Sadness in November). I loved its austerity, the juxtaposition of love and sadness, the starkness of color, the strength in the brushstrokes… and it made me feel something. Choisy himself was in the studio working, and he came around to talk to us. In my elementary French, I attempted to explain how the painting made me feel. All I could say was, “C’est beau et triste.” He led us to the back of the studio and showed us Jeune fille allongée, which he explained was from the same period. Again, I felt a tugging at my heartstrings. If I had 11,000 euros to spare, I’d buy them both and hang them side by side.

Choisy’s work is subtle, impressionistic, and provocative. His minimalist color palette allows for strong emotional associations, and the viewer gets to fill in the blanks and take from the work what he wishes.

Over on the main Rue Grande, Choisy has a gallery where he sells certain paintings, prints, and other merchandise. I much prefer the studio, which I felt was bursting at the seams with creative energy. Plus, the artist works in his studio!

Go: Open daily 9:30 am – 7 pm

5 rue de la Tour-F06570
St. Paul de Vence, France

La Galerie
104 Rue grande-F06570
St. Paul de Vence, France


1 Comment so far
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thank you for your post! we love it!
sandra choisy
facebook: choisy la galerie

Comment by choisy sandra

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