Friday, November 4, 2011

A Canadian Artist in Love with Provence

The Quebec-born artist Claude A. Simard first discovered Provence in his early 20s, traveling around France with a friend. “There was little time for sketching since those were the days when girls were more important than the sights and the history!” he recalls.

He returned in the 1990s, but says the trip that really hooked him was a one-week stay in St. Rémy about ten years ago.  “This time, I was traveling with my wife Huguette, my daughter Roseline and Roseline’s husband to be,” he says. “I took the time to walk around and discover the beauty of the village and its surroundings, with my sketchbook and a box of watercolors. I found the place so attachante that I’ve returned several times since…for two or three weeks at a time so I have time to explore and sketch to my heart’s content.” The title of one chapter in Claude's newest book, in fact, is One Never Returns from St-Rémy. 

So what is it that draws him back again and again?

“It’s the ambience and the people,” he replies. Their love of life. The pleasure of the moment. Walking in the oliveraies where Vincent spent hours painting. The softness of the landscape. The food. The chocolates.  The olives of all kinds. The market. I love Wednesday mornings in St.-Rémy when everyone goes out to make provisions for one day or one week. The accent of the villageois. Everything inspires me in St. Rémy. I feel like a kid who fell in a box of candy when I sit on the steps of the Hotel de Ville and draw draw draw the market.

“In Provence,” Claude continues, “all places are full of beauty. The most banal road and the smallest village turn into subject matter. I like driving through the Alpilles and looking at the stones that time has created and the olive trees that tint the grey landscape a tender green…”

Professionally, Claude has an international reputation. He has had 25 solo exhibits since 1974, done eight postage stamps for Canada Post and completed a number of major mural commissions. His career and garden (called Jardin Bon Accueil) have been the subject of several major articles and TV shows. He has also published two books--Inspiration and Painting and Planting the Garden--and been the subject of a third: Claude A. Simard by André Juneau (Presses Université Laval, 1991).

Should you find yourself in Canada this month, you can catch Claude’s newest exhibit, at Galerie Walter Klinkhoff in Montreal, November 5 to 15, 2011. Claude's page on the gallery website is here. His website is here and his blog is here. Meanwhile, I’ve shared just a few of his Provence paintings and sketches above...but there are many more. 

Claude’s next voyage to Provence will be a three-week trip this Spring. While he has no plans to lead a formal workshop, he might arrange a get together with five or ten people who love the region and want to bring it back in a sketchbook—“along with a few extra inches around the waist!” Interested? Contact him at

Photos: A few of Claude Simard's Provence paintings and sketches, plus a shot of artist in his element.


  1. I'll be stopping by the Klinkhoff Gallery to see the exhibition. Love the paintings! A Montreal fan :)

  2. Hi LL&P!
    That's so nice that you'll get to see the show. I'm sure Claude will be pleased to read your comment. I love his work. Thanks!

  3. It's easy to get hooked on Provence. Great post and beautiful paintings that capture Provence so well - thank you. I must order his book!

  4. I like the whimsy in his style...

  5. I just checked out his website. Lovely work. Love the color. I keep thinking it's such a waste that I get to live in such a lovely place...and I can't paint!

  6. We own a couple of his pieces and now I understand why I love them so much, we share a common interest in Provence!

  7. Hey Julie, thanks for the introduction to his wonderful artist!


  8. Julie,
    Thanks for introducing us to this artist. His paintings are beautiful and I love his sense of color and the whimsy of his style.


  9. Love his charming, sunny style that would bring warmth and a smile to any Frenchified abode!

    Thanks for the always delightful posts!

  10. So pretty, what colors! Really captures the spirit of Provence.

  11. Great place. Very inspirational pictures. Visited it in Toronto at 641, Yonge St.

  12. I'm inspired by the wit, energy and vibrant colors of Claude's work. JUST LOVE IT!!!

  13. Really loved this piece. And I think that Claud's use of colour is WOW!! My summer visit to st Remy really comes alive when i look at these pictures! What a talented artist!

  14. I just wanted to mention that I highlighted your blog in mine today - love your posts and follow them faithfully. I have been in Provence once - two years ago - and love seeing some of my favorite locations. I hope to be back soon! Thank you,


  15. Hi Gerrie,
    Thanks for your very nice comments and for featuring me on your pretty site! I'm very pleased to know about it and look forward to becoming "a regular!" I can't seem to find your email so I hope you see this comment here!
    All the best...

  16. Good evening Julie,
    When I came in from the garden this afternoon I saw that I had received an email from Claude. He is back from his trip to Provence. I'm looking forward to seeing his sketches and hearing his stories. You see I have never been to France so I enjoy traveling to Provence vicariously through Claude. A charming man and such a talented artist.
    I enjoyed reading your interview with him. Very nice!
    All the best,