Famous People Who Lived in Provence

The region of Provence has beckoned countless artists, writers, and influential figures. As you traverse the picturesque trails on Alpenwild’s Provence Tour, you’re not just walking through nature, but also journeying through the history and lives of iconic personalities who have graced this land. Let’s journey through time and explore some of the famous individuals who have called Provence home. 

View of Gordes, a small medieval town in Provence, France. A view of the ledges of the roof of this beautiful village and landscape.


The renowned seer and astrologer, Nostradamus, hailed from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. His enigmatic prophecies, still referenced today, are said to have been inspired by the mystical aura of Provence.

Nostradamus penned his famous almanacs and ‘Centuries’ here, drawing possibly from the spiritual energies of this Provençal town.

Vincent van Gogh

The Dutch post-impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh, was enchanted by Arles and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Here, he painted some of his most iconic works, with the Provençal light playing a pivotal role in his transformative style.

After suffering a major mental crisis in Arles in which he cut off his earlobe, Vincent van Gogh arrived in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence on 8 May 1889. He voluntarily committed himself to Saint-Paul de Mausole psychiatric hospital. Van Gogh stayed there for a whole year, until May 1890. 

It was in his small hospital room that he experienced his most productive period; a major period in his life as an artist, during which he produced almost 150 paintings and numerous drawings, including ‘The Starry Night’, ‘The Almond Tree Branch in Bloom’ and ‘The Iris’.

The landscapes of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and the foothills of the Alpilles, where he used to stay,  are still today as the painter discovered them over a century ago.

After him, many other artists settled in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence or in surrounding villages. Some of them became famous, such as Yves Brayer, Auguste Chabaud, Mario Prassinos and Albert Gleizes, the precursor of Cubism.

Paul Cézanne

A native of Aix-en-Provence, Paul Cézanne captured the essence of Provence in his landscapes. The Sainte-Victoire mountain, in particular, was a recurring subject in his artwork.

In addition to this, his familial estate, Jas de Bouffan, became the canvas for many of his artworks, capturing the essence of Provençal life from orchards to rustic farmhouses.

Samuel Beckett

The renowned writer Samuel Beckett hid from the Germans in Roussillon for three years at the end of World War II between 1942 and 1945.

He was very committed to helping the French Resistance in Paris and had to flee from the Gestapo.

While Samuel Beckett is predominantly linked with Ireland, he spent crucial war years in Roussillon, Provence. The region’s serenity contrasted starkly with the wartime narrative he was penning. Provence’s seclusion allowed Beckett to work on “Watt”, his second novel. The region’s tranquility gave him the space to explore deeper philosophical introspections in his writings.

Ernest Hemingway

The legendary American author, Ernest Hemingway, often ventured into Provence. Its scenic beauty and vibrant culture profoundly influenced his literary endeavors.

Beyond the bars, Hemingway was also captivated by the Provençal landscapes, often indulging in hunting and fishing trips, elements that would later flavor his literary works.

D.H. Lawrence

Literary genius D.H. Lawrence sought refuge in Bandol, Provence, during World War I. The allure of Provence is palpable in his writings. During his stay in Bandol, Lawrence also completed “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. The Mediterranean backdrop provided the perfect setting for him to challenge the conventions of his time.

Napoleon Bonaparte

After his escape from Elba, Napoleon traversed through Provence, marching his way to the historic “Route Napoleon” to reclaim his empire.

After his escape from Elba, Napoleon took a route through Provence to reach Paris. His Provençal journey was marked by the gathering of masses to support his cause.

Robert Louis Stevenson

The author of “Treasure Island”, Robert Louis Stevenson, embarked on a journey through Cévennes, touching the borders of Provence. His travels inspired the enchanting memoir, “Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.”

While Stevenson is best known for his works like “Treasure Island”, his time in Provence inspired travelogues where the beauty of the region often took center stage.

From luminaries in the arts to historian figures, Provence’s magnetic pull is undeniable. The synergy between these famous personalities and the Provençal landscape showcases the region’s indelible mark on global culture. Whether you’re an art enthusiast, history buff, or an ardent traveler, Provence’s legacy intertwined with these legends makes it a must-visit destination.

Check our Tour of Provence, where you will have a chance to ramble along ancient cobblestone paths, explore hilltop fortifications, discover hidden heritage, and wander back in time.

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