Célestin Freinet taught at the village primary school from 1928 to 1933. The old boys' school still stands by the church, and a plaque commemorates the famous (but already controversial!) schoolteacher's years in Saint-Paul de Vence…
Célestin Freinet came to Saint-Paul de Vence in 1928. From letters his wife Elise wrote to her parents, we learn that the school in Saint-Paul de Vence was an old building with a tiny playground and Virginia creeper for shade. The teacher's accommodation was above the single classroom. Freinet's teaching methods were very unconventional for the day and set tongues wagging in the village.
Every afternoon he would take the pupils on "educational walks" through the village or forest, explaining about the flowers, trees and animals and the history of the houses and ramparts. After their walk, the children would write a newspaper that they printed at school and sent to neighbouring schools. Freinet would occasionally go down to the village fountain to hold his lessons; armed with jugs, the pupils set about solving mathematical problems. He left Saint-Paul de Vence in 1933 to open his own school in Vence.
Baptistine & Paul Roux
When Paul and Baptistine Roux opened the Robinson, later to become the Colombe d'Or, they never imagined that their humble inn would one day become a veritable institution...
In the early 1920s, Paul Roux, the son of a village farmer, opened a café-restaurant called Le Robinson, where the villagers could eat a pan-bagnat or slice of pissaladière and dance to the sound of a pianola.
In 1932, when Paul and Titine Roux transformed Le Robinson into a modest inn with four rooms, they also changed its name to Colombe d’Or. It offered a warm welcome, particularly to the artists who started to frequent Saint-Paul de Vence between the two World Wars. The motto was "Welcome here on foot, on horseback or on canvas!" That set the tone! Paul Roux became friends with the artists and was introduced to the world of painting. Matisse, Léger, Picasso, Calder, Braque and Marc Chagall became regulars at the Colombe d'Or, and Paul Roux used their works to decorate the dining room and garden of the Colombe d’Or. Within the space of a few years, it became a world-renowned "inn-museum".
Yves Montand & Simone Signoret
Even today, this legendary couple of French film stars continues to fuel the renown of Saint-Paul de Vence. More than any other celebrities, Yves Montand and Simone Signoret really did stamp the village with their mark...
For Jacques Prévert, Saint-Paul de Vence was a refuge far from the hustle and bustle of Paris. During fifteen years of village life, he nurtured friendships with the greatest artists of the day, wrote dialogues for the movies, and produced what was possibly his finest writing…
Aimé & Marguerite Maeght
Art gallery owners and art dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght moved to Saint-Paul de Vence in the 1950s. In their Parisian gallery they exhibited grand masters such as Matisse, Bonnard and Braque, as well as promising youngsters including Giacometti and Calder...
The Maeght bought a property in Saint-Paul de Vence in the early 1950s and named it "Mas Bernard" after their son, who died in 1953 aged only 11. Aimé and Marguerite Maeght were floored by this tragedy. But encouraged by their artist friends, they decided to embark on an incredible project that would help them pick up their lives. Aided by Georges Braque, as well as other artists, they created an art foundation in Saint-Paul de Vence. Inaugurated in 1964, it was designed by Catalonian architect Josep Lluis Sert with some of the artists: Giacometti, Miro and Braque, for example, laid claim to the gardens – the former setting his sculptures in the courtyard, the second designing a maze intertwined with nature, and the third adding a huge pond with a mosaic of fish on the bottom.
For over 40 years, the Fondation Maeght has contributed to Saint-Paul de Vence's reputation for culture and art.
Aimé and Marguerite Maeght repose in the village cemetery.
The artist lived in the village from 1966 to 1985, painting countless Saint-Paul de Vence landscapes on the theme of love: couples embracing, and lovers floating in vaporous clouds wielding huge bouquets of flowers...
The American writer and humanist was one of Saint-Paul de Vence's most striking celebrities. A Provençal house in the country was his home for the last 17 years of his life…
Théo Tobiasse would have turned 90 in 2017.Born in Israël of Lithuanian origin, his family found exile in Paris when he was 5. Drawn to the Côte d'Azur by its light in 1950, he went on to buy a house in Saint-Paul in 1975. His home/art studio faced the ramparts, the light and the open skies, ans scenery immortalised by artists past.
"Sculpting paintings, painting sculptures and colouring light to reflect a perpetual metamorphosis".
Born in Nice to a family from Saint-Paul, André Verdet grew up in Saint-Paul de Vence with his aunt and uncle, the village's former mayor. He was a multifaceted artist, took part in the Résistance, and for 50 years befriended many of the writers and painters who passed through his village. During the war, André Verdet was arrested by the Gestapo as a member of the Résistance and deported to Auschwitz and Buchenwald. During the most trying times of his captivity, he turned to the stars to find the strength to survive.
André Verdet started writing after meeting Jean Giono in 1935. After the war, he made it his career. He met up again with writer Jacques Prévert whom he had met in Saint-Paul in 1941: the starting point of a long and creative friendship. Together, they wrote several collections of poetry, including "C’est à Saint-Paul de Vence" published in 1949. Prévert introduced him to Picasso in the early 1950s. He met Matisse through Paul Roux, owner of the Colombe d’Or. With encouragement and advice from the two masters, André Verdet started to paint. He frequented other artists such as Arman and César and participated in exhibitions throughout the French Riviera. His book "Discussions, Notes and Essays on Painting" maps out his exchanges with Chagall, Braque, Léger, Matisse and Picasso… a truly fascinating journey into the artists' pictorial universes.
André Verdet wrote books on art, composed exhibition catalogues and collections of poetry, worked with ceramics and even sculpted. He promoted the arts and his home village, acting as a living link between Saint-Paul de Vence and the greatest artists of the 20th century.
"Saint-Paul is a big part of my life," Jean-Michel Folon used to say. The Belgian artist visited the village many times over a period of thirty years...
Jean-Michel Folon discovered the village of Saint-Paul de Vence in the middle of the 1970s thanks to his friend César. The sculptor, a regular in the village, introduced Folon to the Roux family at the Colombe d'Or and Folon painted the colourful sign that is still hanging above the entrance. It depicts a big golden dove flying above the village. In 1979, he worked in the village illustrating the entire œuvre of Jacques Prévert, a gigantic task entailing several volumes.
It is hardly surprising therefore that the town council asked Folon to decorate the inside of the White Penitents' Chapel. The artist agreed enthusiastically, keen to leave something to the village. In what was to be one of his last projects, he created a colourful and poetic décor. Sculptures, paintings, stained glass windows and a mosaic harmoniously grace the chapel's walls and ceiling.
Jean-Michel Folon died in March 2005. He is buried in Monaco, where he settled in 1983.