We’ve been living in the Gers region of France now for over a year and I thought I should post some of the work I’ve done. As I’ve written in the past (here and here), the landscapes here are wonderful for plein air painting, and the sort of subjects that I’ve looked for for years.
It’s a very open landscape. Apparently there used to be many more vineyards but they were pulled out in the 20th-century to make more fields for sunflowers and wheat. I’ve always much preferred the later two as subject matter, but if we need vineyards there are still some nearby, and there a lot further north and west where there are more grapes grown for the Armagnac.
The Gers is also wonderfully free of olive trees, as I developed a terrible allergy to olive pollen in Tuscany which ruined the painting season for me from late April to June. The last couple of years in Florence I was reduced to painting still lifes in the Spring as it got so bad (no offense to still life painters). I also developed an allergy to cypress trees, and thankfully there are far less of them here as well.
With all that said, because of the drier summers we’re having in Southwestern France due to climate change, there is talk of farmers starting to plant more olive trees and I’ve seen a couple of new fields of them.
Camille Corot’s painting from 1826 of the Augustinian Bridge at Narni in southern Umbria had a profound effect on me when I was starting out as a landscape painter and I especially loved the subtle blue reflection of the sky in the mustard colored water of the Nera river. For this reason I was very happy to discover that the three major rivers that run down from the Pyrenees and head north past us to the Garonne all regularly have the same ocher water from the clay in the soil.
We settled in the village of Jegun. It’s a charming, vibrant village with lovely inhabitants. It’s also pretty but not too pretty. After 20 years in the center of Florence I was interested in living somewhere where tourism took a back seat to the lives of the locals.
Nearby we have a wealth of picturesque subject matter, including the very beautiful departmental capital of Auch which is only 20 minutes away, as well as agricultural scenes and the rolling hills of Gascony.
It’s been a wonderful first year and we look forward for many more to come.
My wife and I will be having an exhibition in Château de la Treyne on the Dordogne river, in the Lot region of France this coming July.
All of the small paintings were painted on site last summer, when we had an opening in the lockdowns here in Europe. The larger paintings were painted in the studio this winter, either finished from plein air starts, or enlarged from sketches done in the field.
It’s a stunningly beautiful area, and this is the second summer we have spent painting there. We are normally based near Domme, as we work with the V&A Gallery in Sarlat-la-Canéda, but for this trip we worked much more to the east, to try to paint areas closer to the Chateau.
The castle itself is a spectacular property and we received a very warm welcome from the wonderful owners.
One thing I really love about the Dordogne is how clean the water is. The areas where we were painting were full of water crowfoot, with bees pollinating the flowers that sit just out of the water. And it’s great to see such a large river so teeming with fish and frogs.
Above are all the larger pieces fresh from the studio. Below are all of the smaller, plein air work from the summer. The first group are the ones I used as reference for the studio paintings.
I have an exhibition on at the moment with Plieux Arts in the Gers region of France. The paintings were done last year, and I wrote a blog post at the time about the beauty of the area, including images of the work.
This year, we had to be here for the exhibition opening in July, and then again for a plein air course in early September. Therefore we decided to stay the month in France rather than drive back and forth from Portugal. We rented an apartment in the village of La Sauvetat, at the southern end of the area where we love painting (around Lectoure). These are some of the images from this year’s crop of plein air landscapes of the Gers.
It’s worrying traveling in these times of Covid. Our town in Portugal still hasn’t had any cases, so for us it was concerning to leave the safety of our controlled environment to drive halfway across Europe. So far, so good though. And the French seem to be taking it pretty seriously.
I only had time for one larger plein air piece. The following one was painted over the course of three days:
As I mentioned last time, the Gers is a really stunning area for landscape painting and I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a picturesque region for plein air work.
In a recent post I wrote about landscape painting in the Gers region of France. Here are the paintings from the rest of our summer trip. We bounced around quite a bit of the country as we had to be here and there for workshops and to work towards future exhibitions.
After the Gers, we traveled over to Bordeaux for a few days, then down to the coast between Sète and Agde for a week on the beach.
After the Gers, we traveled over to Bordeaux for a few days, then down to the coast between Sète and Agde for a week on the beach. Next we had to head up north for a workshop near Laon, so we stopped for a few days in the Loire Valley.
In Laon we had a workshop, so I didn’t get much of my own work done. We were on a beautiful property though, so I tried to paint as often as I could.
After Laon we had a couple of days to kill so we headed over to Normandy to paint in Honfleur. I’m always trying to find places where my favorite artists worked, and Boudin, Seago, Jongkind and Monet (among others) all painted in and around the small port there.
From Normandy we drove back down to the Dordogne, to paint local scenes for the V&A gallery in Sarlat-la-Canéda.
These are most of the paintings but the full summer’s oeuvre was posted at the time to my Instagram account.
Overall it was a great trip. The painting locations across France are varied and stunning, the food was amazing, and the people were wonderful and welcoming. We’ll be back again in the summer of 2020 as we have an exhibition and a couple of workshops.
Here are a few of my plein air paintings from last week in Bordeaux, France.
Statues and Circus Trucks. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Tram and Scaffold, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
It’s a very beautiful city. My paintings don’t really do the place justice (and it wasn’t the best time of year for colors). They say it’s like a little Paris and it does have that feel to it, while still seeming small and manageable. It would probably be a great place to live as the climate is mild for Europe, and the food and wine are so amazing.
Sailboat, Cap Ferret. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
Evening Strollers, Bordeaux. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.
And below is a small sketch of Porta San Frediano in Florence from our trip back. I lived in San Frediano for ten years and always wanted to paint the neighborhood more.
Porta San Frediano. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.
Apologies for not painting out the clip holes in the skies. It’s been a busy few weeks.