We’ve been living in the Gers region of France now for over a year and I thought I should post some of the work I’ve done. As I’ve written in the past (here and here), the landscapes here are wonderful for plein air painting, and the sort of subjects that I’ve looked for for years.
It’s a very open landscape. Apparently there used to be many more vineyards but they were pulled out in the 20th-century to make more fields for sunflowers and wheat. I’ve always much preferred the later two as subject matter, but if we need vineyards there are still some nearby, and there a lot further north and west where there are more grapes grown for the Armagnac.
The Gers is also wonderfully free of olive trees, as I developed a terrible allergy to olive pollen in Tuscany which ruined the painting season for me from late April to June. The last couple of years in Florence I was reduced to painting still lifes in the Spring as it got so bad (no offense to still life painters). I also developed an allergy to cypress trees, and thankfully there are far less of them here as well.
With all that said, because of the drier summers we’re having in Southwestern France due to climate change, there is talk of farmers starting to plant more olive trees and I’ve seen a couple of new fields of them.
Camille Corot’s painting from 1826 of the Augustinian Bridge at Narni in southern Umbria had a profound effect on me when I was starting out as a landscape painter and I especially loved the subtle blue reflection of the sky in the mustard colored water of the Nera river. For this reason I was very happy to discover that the three major rivers that run down from the Pyrenees and head north past us to the Garonne all regularly have the same ocher water from the clay in the soil.
We settled in the village of Jegun. It’s a charming, vibrant village with lovely inhabitants. It’s also pretty but not too pretty. After 20 years in the center of Florence I was interested in living somewhere where tourism took a back seat to the lives of the locals.
Nearby we have a wealth of picturesque subject matter, including the very beautiful departmental capital of Auch which is only 20 minutes away, as well as agricultural scenes and the rolling hills of Gascony.
It’s been a wonderful first year and we look forward for many more to come.