Every year the little hill top town of Montreuil-sur-Mer in the northern French department of Pas de Calais, holds an annual Painter’s Day and the whole town buzzes with colour as artists arrive to capture its lovely looks on paper for a day!
In mid-August, 100 or more painters turn up with their easels and tables and chairs. Paint, chalk, crayons are laid out, even sculptors take part, forming clay and painting pieces. All around the town, in the streets, on the market square or one of the other elegant squares, along the ramparts, artists create a piece of artwork based on the landscape of Montreuil-sur-Mer. They start at 08.00 in the morning.
Some artists bring work along for sale. Some artists are simply there to capture the day and take part. Some are professional or semi-professional others are keen amateurs. Most are local (this is a very arty part of France) some of them come from further afield, from the UK and Belgium. In the late afternoon, they stop and their day’s creativity is displayed for all to see and to vote for a winner. Local people and visitors to the town wander around its cobbled streets and winding roads and enjoy the sights and the artwork being created before their eyes.
The artists love to chat to interested passers–by. A lady on the ramparts showed me her early morning chalk picture and aimed to draw another of the same spot, later in the day. She wanted to capture the changing colours of the sky and the effect on the countryside. It was a dull day, there had been storms the day before and lots of rain through the night. “At least it’s not raining” I said as I admired her work. A passer-by stopped to say “the rain will be here at 15h, I saw it on the news this morning! Better finish before then” she added, before departing on her power walk round the ramparts with a cheery “bon courage”.
Montreuil-sur-Mer is a really charming place to spend a day. There are lots of places to stop and chill and watch the artists at work and the world go by. I popped into the Le Pot du Clape in the rue du Clape en Bas, an artistic street all year round as the 16th century cottages are given to artists at a peppercorn rent to display their artisan products. It’s a lovely little restaurant which serves soup, savoury tart, salads and freshly baked bread, the interior is like going into a French granny’s kitchen or front room and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a light lunch, a cold beer or a steaming mug of coffee…
More on Montreuil-sur-Mer
Montreuil-sur-Mer – perfect weekend destination
Les Miserables at Montreuil-sur-Mer, the town which inspired Victor Hugo’s epic tale of love
Saturday morning market at Montreuil-sur-Mer
The Annual Bastille Day Antiques Fair at Montreuil-sur-Mer
Website for Montreuil-sur-Mer Tourist Office