Other famous artists

Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870)

Tour-des-DanysProsper Mérimée was born into a family of bourgeois artists settled near the Pantheon. He first studied law before showing an interest in literature and publishing texts in 1825, including short stories such as "Carmen" and "La Vénus d'Ille" that earned him fame and led to his being elected to the Académie Française in 1844.

In 1831 he started working in the Ministers' Offices and became Inspector General of Historic Monuments. He then travelled throughout France. A close ally of the Empress Eugenie, he was made Senator in 1853 and began to dedicate more time to his work as a historian and archaeologist. "I like history only for its anecdotes", used to say Mérimée.

And there is no anecdote more appropriate than the following. During one of his stays in Le Cannet, he asked an old woman the name of the Danys Tower. The woman, who only spoke Provençal, answered: « Ah Moussu ! Es habitado per aqueu brigand d'Agnelin s'enebrio chasque jou » (Ah Monsieur ! That's the house of that rogue Agnelin, who gets drunk every day). Prosper Mérimée dared not asked her to repeat her answer. But as he thought he had heard a word resembling brigand, he named the tower "Tour des brigands", as it is sometimes still known today.


Melle Rachel (1821-1858)

RachelBorn in Switzerland in 1821 of an Israelite family, Elisabeth Rachel Felix entered the conservatoire at a very young age. At only 17 years of age, she started to work with the Comédie Française. She was a great interpreter of Racine and her exceptional talent turned each performance into a triumph. But the comedian was hit by tuberculosis. Writer Mario Uchard then recommended that she spend some time in the south of France, in Le Cannet with his friend Jean-Jacques Sardou.

The latter, cousin to Victorien Sardou, came from a family of merchants. Extremely rich and considered eccentric, he had a house built just off boulevard Carnot. According to cadastral documentation, it was built in 1856-1857. At that time, Villa Sardou, also known as "lou castèu", was difficult to access, bordered by the Escarasses stream. It was reached by a narrow paved path starting off with a vaulted passage on the edge of the plot.

The house's baroque architecture made it an inevitable curiosity that was described in all the guide books of the time. It impressed all its visitors, with its bridge and two turrets, one of which contained an oratory. A. Czernicki, who saw the house at the time, said that it "then possessed an extraordinary charm that was both darkly poetic and mysterious", lost as it was amongst orange trees, with a courtyard decked with fountains and statues. The inside of the villa is just as surprising and strange. In the lounge, a marble chimney place is sculpted to represent a gigantic olive tree, with mirrors set in between the branches, one of which spreads up to the ceiling, itself decorated with planets and stars. The house's stained-glass windows were designed by Mr. Sardou himself.This barely finished "château" thus rapidly became famous with the arrival of tragedian Rachel. She left Paris on the 14th of September 1857. During her stay at Le Cannet, she received many visitors, including the Prince Napoleon. But her disease made rapid progress and she died in the arms of her sister in January 1858. A huge crowd assembled for her funeral which was held in Paris. The famous alabaster bed on which she died, with the statue of Polymnie, muse of lyrical poetry, at its foot, is a speaking example of the unusual, not to say eccentric taste of the owner of the house. Many postcards featuring the bed and the lounge were edited in 1909.

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Victorien Sardou (1831-1908)

VSardou« It was in 1839 that I first came to this country (...); this delicious Cannet, so well tucked away, so warm. Nestled in its bed of lemon and orange trees, with its terraced houses (...), it had everything of a Sardinian or Corsican village.»

Victorien Sardou was 8 years old when he first came to stay in the family house, the fifth in the road that bears his name. Captivated by the atmosphere, the colours and the light unique to Le Cannet that Bonnard found so inspiring, he was one of the many celebrities to leave their stamp on the Cannet way if life.

A member of one of the founding families of Le Cannet, he was born in Paris in 1831. First a medical student, then a tutor in philosophy, mathematics and history, he made his literary début by collaborating with magazines and encyclopaedias. After producing one play that turned out to be a failure, he abandoned the theatre until his marriage to Mademoiselle Brécourt in 1858. One year later he finally met with success with "Les premières armes du Figaro" (The first weapons of Figaro). He produced over 40 other plays – including the famous "Madame sans-gêne" (The shameless woman) and "Tosca" – for which he was elected to the Académie Française in 1877.

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Raymond Peynet (1908-1999)

PeynetBorn in Paris, at the age of 15 Raymond Peynet entered the school of Applied Arts... that just happened to be right opposite the bistro of his parents, Auvergnats who had moved to Paris a few years earlier. But it was only when he started work at the "Tolmer" advertising agency that he really began to learn his job as an illustrator, by carrying out various tasks: from sweeping of the agency to creating labels for perfume bottles and biscuit tins and designing various ads.

In 1930, Raymond Peynet married Denise, who bore the fated surname of "Damour". In order to earn a better living, he published his drawings in the Parisian press which was profuse in those days: le Rire, Rire à deux, Paris Magazine, The Boulevardier – a magazine reserved for Brits living in Paris –, etc.

1942 marked a turning point in his life. Having to hand over a confidential letter to a correspondent in Valence, in the Drôme department, Raymond Peynet found himself waiting at the rendez-vous point, sitting on a bench opposite the famous Valence bandstand (listed as a historic monument since 1892). Seated there, he imagined a long-haired violinist playing alone in the bandstand, listened to by a single admirer.

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Henri Lebasque (1865-1937)

LebasqueIn the Notre-Dame-des-Anges cemetery, not far from his friend Pierre Bonnard, is buried Henri Lebasque, a French painter who settled in Le Cannet in 1924. An assistant to Humbert in the painting of the Pantheon's frescoes, and a friend of Pissaro's, his style was influenced by the Impressionist movement. He participated in collective exhibitions, the Salon des Indépendants et des Artistes Français (the Independent French Artists Exhibition), as well as in the creation of the Salon d'Automne (Autumn Fair) in 1903, of which he remained a member until his death. Lebasque was highly creative and painted a great many canvases, often representing members of his family.

Henri Lebasque discovered the Midi around 1906 thanks to his friend Manguin who invited him to stay in his villa in Saint-Tropez. The Mediterranean light was a revelation to him. He regularly returned to Provence and finally settled in Le Cannet in 1924. He first rented the Beau-Site villa, in rue des Ardissons, before buying in 1930 a house at 21 rue des Danys, in which he installed his art studio. He painted in Le Cannet a series of nudes, sharing Parisian model Claudine for a while with Bonnard.

In 1935 Lebasque and Bonnard participated in the 1st Salon des Artistes du Cannet (Le Cannet artists' exhibition) to be organized by the town. Although well-known during his life-time, the painter chose to live a quiet and secluded life in Le Cannet. He died on the 7th of August, 1937. The art studio and the house were torn down around 1970.