From Vincent van Gogh's Cafe Terrace At Night to Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise...
The world's most famous artists have drawn inspiration from the real-life locations around them. Rest In Pieces explores real locations that inspired some of the most iconic paintings in art history. From the canals of Venice to the wheat fields of France, these places have become forever linked to the masterpieces that were created there.
Claude Monet's Water Lilies (Giverny, France)
Giverny, a small town located slightly over an hour northwest of Paris, would not have gained much attention if it were not for Claude Monet, who made it his home in 1883. Monet, the celebrated French Impressionist painter, produced some of his most famous artworks in this charming town, including the iconic Water Lilies series. These paintings were inspired by the serene pond, bridges, and gardens located in Monet's own backyard, providing him ample time to capture the scene in his art. In fact, he created this series around 250 times, immortalising the beauty of nature in his brushstrokes. Today, visitors can tour Monet's stunning home and admire the very same garden that inspired his masterpieces.
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Johannes Vermeer's The Little Street (Delft, Holland)
The exact location of Johannes Vermeer’s celebrated work, The Little Street, completed in 1658, remains a topic of much discussion among scholars. Nonetheless, a number of art historians have come to the consensus that the painting emulates a street scene in Delft, the artist's birthplace. This hypothesis has gained significant validation with the realisation that Vermeer’s mother and sister lived on the same canal, directly facing the site he depicted.
Vincent van Gogh's Café Terrace at Night (Arles, France)
Vincent van Gogh resided in Arles, France for more than a year and created some of his most renowned works there. Tragically, it was also the city where the post-Impressionist artist experienced his well-known mental breakdown that led to the amputation of his left ear. Café Terrace at Night, painted in the early autumn of 1888, predates this incident by approximately four months. To this day, visitors can sit at the very café that Van Gogh immortalised in his masterpiece.
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Pablo Picasso's Au Lapin Agile (Paris)
In his quest to reshape the course of art, Spanish artist Pablo Picasso relocated from Barcelona to Paris at the turn of the century, but his path to success was fraught with difficulties. As a struggling artist in Montmartre, a Bohemian neighbourhood, Picasso and his artistic friends often frequented the bar Lapin Agile. In Picasso's painting Au Lapin Agile, he is seen in his signature harlequin persona closest to the viewer, while the bar owner, Frédéric Gérard, appears in the background. Picasso gifted the painting to Gérard, who later sold it in 1911, much to Picasso's displeasure. Germaine Pichot, who was once the object of Carlos Casagemas's infatuation, appears between the two men. Casagemas was Picasso's best friend who died by suicide in 1901 after repeated rejections from Pichot.
Vincent van Gogh's The Church at Auvers (Auvers-sur-Oise, France)
Vincent van Gogh's prolific period in Auvers-sur-Oise resulted in a painting almost every day. Travelers can visit this quaint town located just an hour north of Paris and witness landmarks that the Dutch master effortlessly captured on canvas. One such iconic painting, The Church at Auvers, was created during the last few months of Van Gogh's life. The church is located in close proximity to the artist's final resting place.
Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise (Le Havre, France)
In 1873, the art world was introduced to a new movement that would change history. The term "Impressionism" was coined thanks to Claude Monet's painting, Impression, Sunrise. The painting depicts boats entering the port at Le Havre, France and was the subject of critic Louis Leroy's famous opinion, "Impression I was certain of it." He marveled at the freedom and ease of workmanship in the painting, likening it to a preliminary drawing for a wallpaper pattern. This work and the critic's reaction solidified the term "Impressionism" for the new art style.
Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhône (Arles, France)
The location that inspired Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhône (1888) was only 500 feet away from the Yellow House, where the artist resided during his time in Arles. Completed just months before his infamous mental breakdown, the painting captures the beauty of the night sky over the Rhône river during a productive period for the artist. In a letter to his brother, Theo, Van Gogh described the painting as featuring an aquamarine sky, royal blue water, mauve ground, and blue and purple town. The gas lamps provide yellow illumination, while the reflections are russet gold to green-bronze. The Great Bear constellation sparkles in green and pink against the sky, and two lovers are depicted in the foreground.
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Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World (Cushing, Maine)
Christina's World, created by American artist Andrew Wyeth in 1948, has become one of the most iconic paintings of the 20th century. The artist was residing near the house depicted in his most famous work during the summer when he observed Anna Christina Olson, who had a degenerative nerve illness, crawling towards her home. The painting depicts both subjects in opposite corners, emphasising the immense distance separating them. Olson House, situated in the Maine town of Cushing (75 miles southwest of Bangor), is now open to the public and has been restored to its appearance in the painting after being designated a National Historic Landmark.
Giovanni Paolo Panini's The Trevi Fountain in Rome (Rome, Italy)
Giovanni Paolo Panini, a prominent 18th-century architect and painter, is known for his stunning depictions of Rome. One of his most famous works, The Trevi Fountain in Rome, captures the grandeur of this iconic landmark in vivid detail. Completed around 1750, the painting showcases Panini's use of dramatic colours and intricate details to convey the magnificence of the Baroque-era fountain. The scene depicts the visit of Pope Benedict XIV to the Trevi Fountain in July 1744 and even includes a self-portrait of Panini kneeling before the Pope. Today, the painting is housed at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow.
Vincent van Gogh's The Langlois Bridge at Arles (Arles, France)
Vincent van Gogh may have faced rejection from some of the residents of Arles, but it did not stop him from capturing their daily lives in his art. In "The Langlois Bridge at Arles," the Dutch painter portrayed a group of women washing their laundry in a canal beneath the bridge. Interestingly, the bridge still stands to this day, serving as a physical link to the past of the people Van Gogh once depicted in his painting.
Vincent van Gogh's Le Moulin de la Galette (Paris)
Vincent van Gogh moved from Antwerp, Belgium to Paris in February 1886 and settled into his brother Theo’s home. Despite Theo's initial displeasure with the sudden arrival, Vincent began exploring the city and experimenting with more vibrant colours in his paintings. He often walked the streets of Paris, capturing scenes he encountered, including Le Moulin de la Galette in the Montmartre neighbourhood where his brother lived.
Grant Wood's American Gothic (Eldon, Iowa)
Grant Wood’s American Gothic, painted in 1930, is a prime example of the American artist's skill in depicting the rural American Midwest. The painting portrays a farmer standing next to his daughter, with the Dibble House in the background. Located in Eldon, Iowa, a town approximately 100 miles southeast of Des Moines, the small white house caught Wood's attention and became the inspiration for the painting. Interestingly, the models for the painting were not farmers but rather Wood’s younger sister and the family dentist.
Vincent van Gogh's The Starry Night (Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France)
The Starry Night is one of Vincent van Gogh's most famous paintings and is known for its vivid colours, swirling brushstrokes, and striking imagery of the night sky. The painting was created by van Gogh during his stay at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France, where he voluntarily admitted himself in 1889 after suffering a mental breakdown.
Vincent van Gogh's Wheatfield With Crows (Auvers-sur-Oise, France)
Vincent van Gogh's Wheatfield With Crows (1890) may be considered as the artist's final painting due to the ominous crows flying towards an impending storm in the distance, but it cannot be confirmed. What is known, however, is that the painting was completed towards the end of his brief life, as he passed away at the age of 37, a decade after he started his artistic journey. Moreover, the wheat fields that Van Gogh captured in the painting are located behind the cemetery wall where he is buried. His tombstone lies adjacent to his younger brother, Theo, who passed away less than a year after Vincent due to complications arising from syphilis.
Paul Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire (Aix-en-Provence, France)
Mont Sainte-Victoire, a landscape in Aix-en-Provence, France, was a subject that captured the heart of Paul Cézanne more than any other. According to some art historians, the French artist painted the mountain range over 60 times. Cézanne was fascinated by how the mountain's atmosphere transformed throughout the day and even within an hour due to the effects of sunlight. Today, several upscale restaurants offer patrons an open-air dining experience with views of the limestone mountain, providing a unique opportunity to witness the varying hues of Mont Sainte-Victoire during a meal.
John Constable's The Hay Wain (Flatford Mill, England)
John Constable's 1821 masterpiece, The Hay Wain, portrays a scene along the River Stour that flows between Suffolk and Essex in England. The painting showcases three horses pulling a wooden cart through the shallow waters in the middle of the canvas. The Hay Wain was initially displayed at the London Royal Academy in 1821 but remained unsold. However, the painting's reputation has transformed over the years. In 2005, The Hay Wain was ranked the second greatest painting in Britain by a poll conducted by BBC Radio 4 Today (the top prize was awarded to J. M. W. Turner's The Fighting Temeraire). Currently, The Hay Wain is exhibited at The National Gallery in London.
Edvard Munch's The Scream (Oslo, Norway)
The Scream, one of the most iconic and recognised works of art in the world, was inspired by a location in Oslo, Norway called Ekeberg Hill. Edvard Munch, the Norwegian artist, was walking on the hill one evening in 1892 when he was struck by the beautiful sunset and the cityscape below. However, the experience soon turned into a terrifying one as he felt an inexplicable and overwhelming sense of anxiety and despair. Munch later described the experience in his diary, writing, "I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature."
Today, Ekeberg Hill remains a popular tourist destination, with visitors from all over the world drawn to the spot where Munch was inspired to create one of the most famous and haunting paintings in history.
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It can be tricky to pinpoint the exact locations of some famous paintings. This is partly because before Impressionism became popular in the 1860s, portraits were more favoured than landscapes. Famous artists prioritised their artistic vision over pinpoint topographical accuracy, so identifying the exact locations of their work can be challenging.
When Impressionism emerged in the 1860s, it gave artists the freedom to paint outdoors and capture real-life scenes. The invention of the paint tube by John G. Rand also made it easier for artists to create their works. However, this era was relatively short-lived in the context of art history. With the arrival of Cubism shortly before World War I, artists began to defy conventions and focus more on abstraction. This made it increasingly difficult to pinpoint the actual locations depicted in paintings.
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- Edvard Munch The Scream Explained
At our jigsaw puzzle company, we are passionate about creating puzzles that celebrate the beauty of fine art. But we also believe that art is meant to be experienced in person. So why not plan a trip to one of these iconic locations and see the beauty of nature that inspired some of the greatest artists in history? Who knows, it might even inspire you to pick up a paintbrush and create your own masterpiece.