Have you ever wanted to step inside a work of art? Though this may feel like a pipe dream for many, the settings of some of the most famous modern masterpieces exist in real life—and even welcome visitors.
From a cafe in the dreamy south of France to an understated cottage in Ohio, these locations have inspired some of the world’s most iconic artists, including Vincent van Gogh, Grant Wood, Claude Monet, and Edvard Munch. By visiting these far-away yet familiar sites, modern art lovers can experience their favorite paintings outside of the walls of museums and the pages of art history books.
Explore some of the most well-known works of art with this selection of must-see sites.
Le Café La Nuit (Café Terrace at Night by Vincent van Gogh)
In 1888, Post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh visited Arles, a colorful city in the south of France. Here, he developed his distinctive style and completed some of his most well-known paintings, including Café Terrace at Night.
Featuring a glowing cafe set against the artist’s signature starry sky, the painting portrays a September evening in the Place du Forum, a square in the center of the city. “On the terrace,” Van Gogh wrote in a letter to his sister, “there are little figures of people drinking. A huge yellow lantern lights the terrace, the façade, the pavement, and even projects light over the cobblestones of the street, which takes on a violet-pink tinge.”
Van Gogh painted this piece en plein air, or “outside.” Today, you can stand in the very spot where he set up his easel, located just next to the familiar yellow awning of the aptly renamed Le Café La Nuit.
Atelier Cézanne (Series of Still Life Paintings by Paul Cézanne)
Much like fellow Post-Impressionist Van Gogh, painter Paul Cézanne found ample inspiration in the idyllic south of France. Unlike the Dutch artist, however, Cézanne was born and raised in the area, with Aix-en-Provence serving as his home base for most of his life.
Here, Cézanne converted an old farmhouse into a sunny studio. In this atelier, he completed several famous paintings, including his charming Still Life with Plaster Cupid.
Today, visitors to the Aix-en-Provence area can stop by his studio, which still houses the artist’s original furniture, painting supplies, and still life props. Nestled in the hills, it is no wonder this location appealed to the artist, who noted that he “can work better there than in the city.”
View from Terrain des Peintres in Provence (Mount Saint Victoire Series by Paul Cézanne)
Between 1882 and 1906, Cézanne completed at least 30 paintings of Mount Saint Victoire, a mountain range in Provence. In this series, the artist famously experimented with color, composition, and brushstroke, making it one of the most significant projects of his career.
Most of these pieces were painted from a look-out point located a short distance from his studio. Known today as the Terrain des Peintres, this stunning vista is accessible by a special “Cézanne Trail,” allowing visitors to quite literally follow in the footsteps of the iconic artist.