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Posts tagged ‘Aix’

Marseille to Marbella, Part VII: Aix, Le Marché

Colour, colour, colour! Shiny red apples, ruby like strawberries, resplendent silver fish and emerald green herbs. Courgettes in forest green, sage green, yellow green and white, blackboards written with curly french writing. And king of it all those sunflowers: a full, powerful sunshine punch of yellow with a deep fury chocolate brown at its centre, signalling the very epitome of this Provençal heartland. This is the market of Aix-en-Provence, the sensory spectacle to which I rushed on my birthday morning, and which is such a sight for the eyes that it deserves a post all of its own.

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I can only imagine how Paul Cezanne, famous son of the city, became inspired by the bustling, vivid life of Aix’s morning market. Who could not become an artist when basking in the glories of a sun filled square, filled with stripy umbrellas casting a warm glow over stalls full of just-picked produce and carefully nurtured harvests. Yet despite its beauty, this is no artwork to be admired on a gallery wall: The beauty of le marché in Aix is that it continues to be such a vital cog in the life of the city. It is a place for bargaining and butchering, for perusing and tasting. And in Aix’s market, watching the picky locals carefully choose the very best from an already magnificently presented selection was almost as captivating for me as the produce itself.

The market of Aix is a king amongst European street markets. Not big, not intimidating, but utterly authentic and wonderfully, completely charming.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

My Travel Sketchbook: A Fountain in Aix

I dragged my trusty travel sketchbook all the way down to the South of France, and in my bag from Marseille to Cassis to L’Estaque. Yet it wasn’t until we got to Aix-en-Provence that I was inspired to take it out, and begin sketching the romantically quaint streets of this Provençal gem. Aix is a town of such interrupted charm that any part of the place could have been picked at random and replicated as a painting or sketch. Yet for me, Aix’s enduring appeal arises in the trickling of its fountains, be they wall-mounted masterpieces or the large round basins from which statues peruse the streets and spray water high into the air while around them diners sit and enjoy the somniferous trickle.

A study of Aix’s many fountains could easily occupy a day, at the very least, especially if you take time to sit back and enjoy a glass or two of rosé wine alongside their ripped waters. It was a study which inspired my painting of Aix’s many fountains shortly after my last trip to the city, yet the hours of work which that painting required did not render them commonplace in my eyes. Rather, it was one of my favourites of the lot – the fountain just off the Cours Mirabeau, with a three dimensional star crowning its apex- which finally encouraged me to reopen my sketchbook to the light of day. This is the result.

Aix Sketch

Aix, street detail (©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, 2017, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Marseille to Marbella, Part VI: Aix, Le Birthday Boy

I adore Aix-en-Provence. Apart from the inimitable Paris, it is undoubtedly my favourite city in France. Elegant, leafy, filled with bustling squares and trickling fountains, it is a city which is inescapably gentrified, and which exudes a real sense of cultural enrichment and a proud artistic heritage which resonates at every corner. Ever since we first went back in 2013, a visit which led to my painting, Aix: City of a Thousand Fountains, Aix has held a prominent place in my heart. If you want true Provence, the kind of Provence which you’ve seen on postcards or dreamt about in visions framed by lavender-scented cobbled streets and rosé wine supped amongst stripey-shirted waiters and vichy table-clothes, this is really it. Aix is a veritable feast of pretty squares and idyllic leafy shopping streets. Dare I say that it is close to perfect?

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So when we decided to head down to Marseille around the time of my birthday, Aix had to feature, and given that it is truly my favourite place in the region, it felt like the perfectly appointed seat of celebration for my impending anniversaire.  Soon enough we were bedded into a lovely little attic room in the Hotel des Quatre Dauphins (very La Bohème) named after the four dolphin fountain of the same name which trickles away in this very ochre-coloured stately area of Aix. Within seconds we were on the main leafy thoroughfares of Aix, where Cezanne, Aix’s most famous son, used to sip on wine and consider how best to capture the nearby Mount St Victoire. And all around we were surrounded by cafes and galleries and boutiques aplenty. During 24 hours in Aix we must have seen over 200 paintings in exhibitions which ranged from the Jaeger collection to a retrospective of Sisley landscapes. We had breakfast opposite the multi-coloured food market (more about that later in the week), lunch in the imperial surroundings of the Hotel de Caumont and dinner in a tiny patio hung with decorative laundry and bourganvilla. Could there be a better way to spend a birthday?

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So once again Aix proved to be the perfect Provençal destination, and a flawless birthday gift. It’s one of those towns which seems to glow with a golden sheen, like Rome whose streets bask in the reflected light which bounces of its terracotta walls. Here the effect is created by walls painted in butterscotch and caramel, and reflected across the streets with the aid of sunlight magnified in trickling fountains. It really is an aesthete’s paradise. That’s why Aix can make a Cezanne of us all.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

New painting alert! – A week of sneaky-peeks on twitter

I make no secret of the fact that I am a great creative, spending hours of every day and week creating, whether it be sketching, painting or printing, or further afield cooking up feasts in the kitchen or closely acquainting myself with my camera. However, since starting work full-time two years ago, the rate at which I complete the large scale oil paintings which I used to create on a regular basis, and many of which will be on display at my forthcoming solo exhibition, has really slowed. Last year’s Autorretrato took me around 9 months to complete, and the work which I turned to shortly after completing that one – my painted exploration of Aix-en-Provence in the South of France was commenced as long ago as last summer.

So it is with a great degree of excitement that I am but mere brushstrokes away from completing this homage to Aix which I have been working on tirelessly (on and off, admittedly) for the last 6 months. Fairly large in scale (1oocm x 75cm) and big on detail, it was always going to be a fairly ambitious project, containing as it does a landscape and cityscape all rolled into one together with illustrations of some 9 of the city’s famous fountains as well as a number of shops and cafes.

As I approach the completion of that work, I wanted to share the excitement with you, and what better way to do that than share some exclusive peeks of the details of the work? Starting from today, I will be sharing one glimpse a day of my new painting – it’ll be a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, with little pieces of the work being released day by day before the whole painting is unveiled next week. But while the first peek is contained here on this post, it’ll be the only one – for all of the rest, you’ll need to check out my twitter, @DeLacyBrownArt, from which I will be posting a new detail of the painting every day this week. And as if that weren’t incentive enough to follow me, my twitter will also tell you whenever a new Daily Norm post is published!

Aix: City of a Thousand Paintings (2013-4 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas) Detail - Ribbons!

Aix: City of a Thousand Paintings (2013-4 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas) Detail – Ribbons

So please do check out my twitter, and come back again to The Daily Norm soon to see the complete image of my brand new oil painting. Arghhh, the excitement!!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at www.delacy-brown.com

Provence Odyssey | Aix: Le Dîner – La Cantine

Oh pretty Aix, if only I could write you an ode that befits the glory of your pastel-coloured visage, your night times streets ambient with the warmth of your peoples’ passion, night strollers treading the tango under the shelter of wide plane trees hung with glowing lanterns, around your fountains bustling restaurant tables clustered, and on your honey-painted walls, light reflected from street lamps and cafe candles. Aix, the city of students, of Cézanne, of the chic and the cultured, a city whose spirit is unceasing throughout day and night, and whose elixir of life bursts like electricity bolts through the long boulevards and across your terracotta rooftops.

Ice cream delight!

Ice cream delight!

Yes, by evening on our first day in Aix, a passion for Aix had swept over us both, as we wandered its streets and squares captivated by its reflected glory. Finding a gastronomic feast to match our experience was not difficult, and in one large square close to the law courts and the old Hotel de Ville, one restaurant in particular, its tables set out under the natural canopy of trees, candles flickering on its grey tables, drew us to it. The restaurant was La Cantine, offering a mix of corsican, Italian and Provençal food, but with a menu whose platters of charcuterie and oozing local cheeses had about it the casual feel of Spanish tapas.

Dinner at La Cantine

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Yet beyond the small tasty samplings of our meat-loaded starter, unctuous main courses more than satisfied our growing hunger at this temple of gastronomic delights – a succulent lamb dish sweetened in honey for Dominik, and for me a pile of perfectly al dente gorgonzola cheese pasta, retaining both a bite to the pasta, but a creamy explosion of rich blue cheese. Exquisite.

For dessert, a fresh tart of strawberries and a salted caramel crunch more than satisfied our now loaded bellies, part filled as they were at the beginning of the evening by spectacular ice cream cocktails, consumed out of the coolest of ice cream containers that I have ever seen.

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Words cannot alone describe the buzz of this incredible city, nor my remembrances of a dinner eaten to an accompaniment of chirping birds and splashing fountains aptly recreate the pleasure of that evening. So I leave you instead with some night time photos, of a city alive despite the late hour, of buildings shining with glowing projected words cast upon them, and of fountains and cafes full of the crowds who keep Aix pumping long into the night.

Aix by night

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