Why Côte Vermeille in France is a haven for artists

Club des Croisières’s Ana Faber explains why cruise guests should explore the region’s cultural history

Why Côte Vermeille in France is a haven for artists

Thomas Anie

Some of the world’s greatest artists have been inspired by the Côte Vermeille region in France

By Ana Faber |

On the south coast of France, there is a rocky coastline renowned for its beauty and culture. The Côte Vermeille, comprising four villages – Cerbère, Banyuls-sur-Mer, Port-Vendres and Collioure – has been the home to some of the world’s greatest artists throughout its history, inspiring many painters, novelists and sculptors with its scenic beauty.

In 1905, Henri Matisse and his friend André Derain decided to stay in Collioure. During their time painting the scenes of the village together that summer, a new artistic movement was born: Fauvism, in which emotion and colour are taken to the extreme. The town became a meeting place of followers of the movement, including Georges Braque, Charles Camoin, and Jean Puy.

But the story of the Côte Vermeille doesn’t stop with Matisse and Derain. 

In June 1940, during World War II, the Germans occupied Paris. Many Surrealist artists fled to Collioure, Canet and Banyuls-sur-Mer in the south of France. This coast became a territory of struggle throughout the war for artists in hiding, exiles, activists, resistance fighters and collaborators, whose art bears witness to a complicated era. 

Then in 1949, Collioure welcomed British novelist Patrick O’Brian. The village so inspired the novelist that virtually all his work was written on the Côte Vermeille. These included his famous Aubrey-Maturin series of historical novels, which gave rise to the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Collioure is not the only town on the coast to have welcomed great artists. The commune of Banyuls-sur-Mer was the birthplace of French painter, engraver and sculptor Aristide Maillol. He spent his life in Banyuls-sur-Mer, sculpting for his town and inspiring the greatest artists, such as Picasso and Matisse. 

To preserve the art and memory of these artists, the communes have decided to create spaces dedicated to them. In Collioure, an art museum and a Fauvist walking trail pay tribute to Matisse and all Fauvist artists, immersing visitors in their works and their reality. Maillol, meanwhile, is highlighted by the Musée Maillol in Banyuls-sur-Mer and the ‘Dans les Pas d’Aristide’ tour, immersing visitors in the district where the artist was born. All these artists and places are waiting for cruise guests to discover them.

For cruise guests, the gateway to the Côte Vermeille and its artistic history is Port-Vendres, one of the only deep-water ports in this region of France. The port is able to accommodate ships up to 155 metres in length at its two available berths, one of which is dedicated to cruise ships specifically.

Ana Faber is a tourism specialist at Club des Croisières Port-Vendres/Côte Vermeille

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2023 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed. Subscribe to Cruise & Ferry Review for FREE to get the next issue delivered directly to your inbox or your door.

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