What inspires an artist? There are countless possibilities to answer this question and they are very individual from one artist to another. Throughout the history (of art), there were many discussions on what ignites the artistic spark and one of the things for sure, especially in visual arts, is the location and surroundings in which the artists find themselves. The effect on the artist and their work is sometimes so immense that it inadvertently changes not only the artist’s life but also the course of the career and the history of art altogether. Here are some of the most iconic places that inspired famous painters.
1. Tahiti – Paul Gauguin
One of the most famous examples of a destination influencing an artist is definitely the influence of Tahiti on Paul Gaugin. The artist left Marseille for French Polynesia thinking that the new exotic land would bring more inspiration and creativity into his work and he was right – the trip changed both his artistic and personal life and he moved from his previous impressionistic style towards a more graphic, primitive one, with bolder colours, simplified forms and strong lines. Gauguin became obsessed with Tahiti which enchanted him not only with its nature but also people – he mostly painted Tahitian women doing their everyday tasks. Though by the time he first arrived, the area of Papeete was already quite westernised, the surroundings were still very exotic and made an everlasting impact on Gauguin and, through his work, the course of the history of art.
2. Mount Fuji – Katsushika Hokusai
With the religious and cultural significance of Mount Fuji in Japan, signifying immortality and many legends tied to it, it is understandable that the mountain has served as inspiration for artists ever since the ancient times. This was also true for Katsushika Hokusai, a famous Japanese artist who in the 1830s created his most famous work – ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, with the most famous print of the series being The Great Wave of Kanagawa.
3. Arles, France – Vincent Van Gogh
One of the most productive periods of Vincent Van Gogh was during the time he lived in Arles. Tired of the city life in Paris, he came to Arles in 1888 where he also met different artist such as Eugène Boch and Christian Mourier-Petersen, while his friend Paul Gauguin even joined him for two months to work together. Inspired by the city and its surroundings, the vibrant colours of the South of France, he drew numerous sketches and painted many paintings, some of the most famous ones being ‘The starry night over the Rhone’, ‘Bedroom at Arles’ and ‘Café Terrace at Night’.
4. New Mexico – Georgia O’Keeffe
One of the most renowned American painters, Georgia O’Keeffe, was magnetically drawn to the desert landscapes of New Mexico. She first visited the state in 1927 and was continuously returning to it until in 1949 she made it her permanent home. The dramatic landscapes of desert, rocks and cliffs that surrounded the Ghost Ranch where she lived became as famous as her New York paintings, bringing a new, fresh perspective to American art.
5. Giverny, France – Claude Monet
If you’ve ever had an opportunity to see a painting from Claude Monet’s series Water Lilies in real life, there is a big chance that you were looking at it mesmerised for a long time. This hypnotic quality of the paintings comes from the use of colours and texture that Monet was meticulously studying and exploring during the last thirty years of his life. The star of the paintings is a pond in his garden in Giverny, a small village that Monet was enchanted by when when traveling to Gasny in 1883. Monet was near obsessed with the pond, with its little Japanese bridge and water lilies and the light reflecting on it, he painted it over and over again, resulting in more than 250 paintings.
6. Mont Sainte-Victoire – Paul Cézanne
One of the best known subjects of paintings by the great Paul Cézanne is a mountain in France which inspired the series of paintings Mont Sainte-Victoire. The painter was particularly interested in the way the mountain changed its mood during the day, depending on the light – he used geometry and colour in a specific way to depict the lighting and the distance, creating over 60 paintings by which a whole generation of cubists was inspired.