There’s a small town along the Mediterranean, close to Spain, that’s one of my favorite “finds” in France: Collioure. It’s not a place you hear about very often, which is a good thing. There are enough tourists already. Just not the huge crowds.
When approaching the coastal area the scenery is rather mundane. Rocky terrain and scraggly bushes lead down to the sea.
It is just around the bend that the beauty of the area reveals itself.
In Collioure nature, architecture and history blend to create a magical place.
Sticking out in the Mediterranean with supreme majesty is the Royal Castle. It’s mere existence hints there is history here that must not be ignored. Somehow it seems unfair that the beach is nearby to lure you away.
As if sitting on the beach and daydreaming, or contemplating history isn’t enough to entertain you in Collioure, you notice there are artists and galleries everywhere.
Collioure has always been a source of inspiration for artists. Known as the “City of Painters”, Picasso, Derain, Dufy, Chagall, Matisse and Marquet have all spent time here. Its distinctive landscape and panorama and blend of colors and lights are reflected in major works such as “Boats at Collioure” by Derain or “The Open Window” by Matisse. These two artists who were drawn to the town because of it’s “special light.”
Set between the Mediterranean sea and the Pyrenees mountains on the only east-facing coast of France, Collioure experiences exceptionally long hours of sunshine. The Mediterranean has almost no tides, so when the sun rises over the water, there is no surf to break the sun’s reflection off the sea — which is deep blue — nor to diminish the green and red colors of the Pyrenees.
Andre Derain commented that “Collioure has no shadows.”
It is the light exposure, along with the natural scenery and historic monuments, that drew Paul Signac, Matisse, Derain, Chagall, Dali and Picasso, and hundreds of other to the site. It is here that Matisse experimented with colors. It is a fact that Collioure is the “birthplace of Fauvism,” the 20th century art movement led by Matisse that liberated the concept of color. His work introduced vibrant colors and strong brushstrokes in a way never seen before.
“When I put a green,” Matisse would say, “it is not grass. ”
When I put a blue, it is not the sky.”
Matisse saw color as a tool to “interpret nature and submit it to the spirit of the picture,” he said.
Collioure continues to host artists from all backgrounds. More than 40 art galleries and a Museum of Modern Art are active with hundreds of exhibitions. Visitors can tour along a trail in the village where famous Fauvist works were painted or drawn.
For more information about Collioure