For many years, painter Auguste Renoir spent his summers in the Aube department. Follow in the artist’s footsteps in the wine growing village of Essoyes.
Lovely and peaceful village situated in the Côte des Bars, near Troyes, the most southern part of the Champagne AOC, Essoyes doesn’t owe its fame neither to its heritage nor its wineries. Tourists come there because it is dotted with memories of Auguste Renoir who came there many times.
[ Practical ]
- By road
225 km from Paris on autoroutes A4 and A5 till exit 21, then on N71 and D67 till Essoyes.
- By public transport
Train only goes till Troyes, 50 km away from Essoyes. A bus runs between Troyes and Bar-sur-Seine, 16 km away from Essoyes.
Le Val Morêt, in Magnant, 22 km away
Le Magny, in Les Riceys, 18 km away
Le Marius, in Les Riceys, 18 km away
- Bed and Breakfast
La Guinguette des Arts
Aux Délices de l’Ource
Espace des Renoir
9 place de la Mairie, 10360 Essoyes.
Open every day except Tuesday. Closed in December and January.
Visit by guided tour only also including a 10mn walk through the village and a visit of Renoir studio. The tour lasts 1 h 30 mn.
Admission : €8 / €4.
Tours at 10.30am, 11.30am, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm and 5pm from May to September, at 10.30am, 2.30pm and 4pm in April, at 10.30am and 2.30pm in February, March, October and November.
Tel : 0325291094
- Aube tourist office
Tel : 0325425000
- Essoyes tourist office
Tel : 0325292127
How did the famous painter end up spending his summers in Essoyes for more than 25 years ?..
Enchanted by the landscapes
Simply because Aline Charigot, his live model then his wife, was native from this village where she naturally dragged her husband in 1885. The painter was soon won over and enchanted by the landscapes, the locals’ way of life and after brief stays followed by more regular visits, the couple bought a house in 1896. Working tirelessly, he found inspiration in family scenes, in the river that flows through the village, in the surrounding countryside and by watching the laundresses, especially Gabrielle Renard who became his children’s nanny and his favorite model.
To know everything about his life away from Paris, head to the Espace des Renoir set up in the former stables of the nearby castle. Open in 2011, it’s a very interesting place to visit although there are no original Renoir paintings here as well as furniture or artifacts associated with him.
Espace des Renoir
Espace des Renoir © T.Joly
Displaying canvases reproductions, photographs, films and recordings arranged around a series of themes, it evokes Renoir’s beginnings and Impressionism but chiefly focuses on all the aspects of his life in Essoyes. Aline Charigot, his wife, works inspired by his children and family scenes, the huge influence of Gabrielle Renard, the journey from Paris to Essoyes, the friends who came to visit him, his reflections on country life in Champagne, the epicurean way of life of the family and the dishes prepared by his wife, the childhood and the career of his three sons. Pierre who was a stage and film actor, Jean a worldwide known filmmaker who directed more than 40 feature-length films, and Claude who was first involved in film productions, directed several dramatic works for the television and then turned to making ceramics.
There's also a projection room where is screened a short film about the artistic creation by Renoir and his sons.
In addition, another room hosts temporary exhibitions related to Renoir or showcasing local artists.
Besides, a signposted itinerary going through the village leads to places linked to the Renoir family history and a few easels displaying reproductions of paintings are placed on the exact spot where these works where done. Houses where Aline Charigot and Gabrielle Renard were born in no longer exist but the Renoir family’s home and the painter studio are still visible.
For now, only the latter is open to the public. Built in 1905 at the bottom of the garden of the family property so as to allow Renoir to work quietly, this is a one-storey building. On the ground floor, hanging in the center is the wheelchair which he had to use towards the end of his life as he was severely crippled by rheumatism and arthritis.
On one side of the room, a screen shows images of the scenes he painted around Essoyes while other walls are covered with explanatory panels providing information about his life and his work with a focus on sculpture. In his last years of life he indeed also took up this art, directing assistants to act as his hands due to his partial paralysis.
Some of these sculptures are exhibited on the 1st floor where his studio has been reconstituted. Lit by large windows, it has a sofa covered with red blankets in the center, easel and paints, a few reproductions of paintings and various objects that belonged to Renoir like the box used to carry his canvases on the train to Paris and letters from his wife.
Finally, you can pay a visit to the cemetery where the couple and their three children were buried according to their wish.
June 26, 2014