L'Estaque and its painters
In the northernmost part of Marseille, nestling at the foot of the Nerthe massif, the little port of Estaque (meaning attachment in Provençal) is still one of the most picturesque districts of the city. Its development over the centuries has been closely associated with the traditional tile-making industry. At the beginning of the 20th century, people would come to L'Estaque to try sea urchins, bouillabaisse, panisses and sardines in hotels and restaurants built on the water's edge. Bastides, seaside villas (Château Fallet, Villa la Palestine, etc.) veritable architectural follies, etc. started to spring up next to the traditional small houses belonging to the workers from the nearby tile factories and cement works.
For art enthusiasts, Estaque is above all one of the key locations in the birth of modern painting. From Collioure to Menton, just to consider the Mediterranean coast, there are plenty of places that have attracted great painters. However are there many places that can boast to have been frequented over a period of sixty years (1860-1920) by ten or so renowned artists? The name of L'Estaque is associated with impressionism, fauvism, cubism: these three periods that to a great extent determined the nature of painting in our time. Although Cézanne and Braque are the two major figures, we should not forget painters such as Derain, Dufy, Marquet, Friesz, Macke, Renoir, Guigou and Monticelli. Most of them painted dozens of canvasses at Estaque. An unusual destiny indeed for this village, which can firstly be explained by its situation: it offers an exceptional view point, where the panorama of the bay of Marseille is often very striking.
The explanation for the painters' inspiration can also be found in the large number of different subjects, and in the variety of shapes and colours, all concentrated in a relatively small space: the horizontal sea, the vertical factory chimneys, the curves of the hills and the arches of the viaducts, the play of ochres and reds responding to the intensity of the myriad of greens and blues.
A walking tour presents the history of this colourful working-class district with a strong character, little different nowadays from the village the painters knew and loved. Many of the themes are still here. To see them you just need to know how to look. Starting from the harbour jetty, take the painters' path, and after this walk lasting roughly two hours you will understand why these artists were so attracted to these sites. Eight enamelled lava information panels are positioned at various points of the walk.