Postcard of the Week: the French Riviera
Aaaah, the French Rivera… Portrayed in films as a sort of Mecca for the rich and famous, as a paradise of elegance, opulence and beautiful sweeping views over sunny, mesmerising Mediterranean bays. Host to VIPs from the world of film during the Cannes Film Festival every year since 1946, the Côte d’Azur is home to luxurious hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs and designer shops that cater to this elite strata of society who visit. It’s been that way for decades and there’s very much a vibe of old glamour, of generations and generations of wealthy Brits choosing ‘to summer’ on the south coast of France. Before that, we Brits ventured to England’s south coast, where you still find the seaside towns of Brighton, Bognor Regis and Lyme Regis, whose heydays are now visibly behind them. At some point though someone must have ventured further afield and discovered that not all south coasts are born equal, and that France’s south coast beats ours hands down.
In the summer the whole region is packed. Whether mooring a yacht in St Tropez, staying in Nice or splashing out on a grand hotel in Monaco, it’s apparently full to burst with visitors in the summer months. My only visit to the French Riviera was to Nice, from where we visited Monaco for a day and some surrounding villages and beaches too. And I thought it was wonderful. I can imagine that most of it is unrecognisable compared to the original French Riviera scene, but pockets of it still must exist in the conclaves of the luxury hotels. Watch Priceless, a French film with Audrey Tautou, for an glimpse into that world.
The reason I like this postcard is because it reminds me of an art project I had aged 15 during my Art GCSE. We were tasked with transforming a famous 2D painting into 3D. I chose Raoul Dufy’s Intérieur à la Fenêtre Ouvert below, of a room looking out onto a bay in the French Riviera.
I adore his work and the colours he used, and I really loved the project. As any art student will know, it is all about the preparatory studies. So I researched artist after artist who had focused on this stretch of southern France, and quite a few Art Deco posters came up, just like the postcard above, which were presumably once used to promote inbound tourism to the region. These vintage adverts are now really popular as interior decoration and I completely see why – they’re stunning. My aunt even took it one step further and had a mural of a coastal scene painted onto a wall in her old house! I’m quite partial to murals myself (a few years ago I painted a mural in my bedroom in Hampshire) and I love the idea. When I do eventually commit and buy myself a house, I envisage its walls will act like a gallery for me to hang every painting I have ever bought abroad and for me to display the growing number of postcards I own.