Traveling Artists Seek Inspiration On A Voyage In Southern France


Photos courtesy of La Napoule Art Foundation

You’d be hard-pressed to find a prettier spot than Château de La Napoule, an American museum on the Côte d’Azur. With rocky cliffs, pristine beaches and tropical plants surrounding the property, it’s like being submerged in a dreamscape of colors, scents, history, nature and, of course, art. 

The site was first used by the Romans over 2,000 years ago, and during the 14th century the Villaneuve family erected a fortress that survived invasions, looting, wars and revolutions. It was a glass factory until 1789, and then abandoned until American expatriate millionaire-turned-artist Henry Clews Jr. and his architect wife, Marie, purchased the château in 1918. They spent the next 17 years transforming and restoring this ruin into an enchanted environment suited to their eccentric artistic taste.

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The 14th century Chateau de La Napoule basking in the Cote d’Azur sun

After Henry’s death in 1937, the château was captured by the Germans during World War II, but Marie stayed on to serve as a maid to the soldiers and remain close to Henry’s creations. In 1951, she founded La Napoule Art Foundation to promote cultural exchange and understanding in loving memory of her husband, who had become a prolific sculptor before his death.

Marie Clews invited the foundation’s first resident artist, sculptor Edward (Ned) Hoffman, to work at the Château de La Napoule in 1951. Today, life at La Napoule purposefully reflects the artists’ camaraderie, cultural discourse and creative energy that the château enjoyed when the Clews made it their home and studio.

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Henry Clews Jr. and Marie Clews on their wedding day in 1914. They left for Paris shortly thereafter to start their lives together

The château compound, which includes the adjacent Villa Marguerite and six acres of historic gardens, offers indoor and outdoor studios, as well as lecture, performance and instructional spaces. 

“For over 70 years, LNAF has hosted internationally known artists, scholars and journalists from at least 40 different countries at the château–from film festival and Oscar winners to Nobel laureates–to contribute to the greater good of mankind,” shares Molly Nuanes, director of operations and programs at La Napoule. “Both resident artists and workshop participants bring their experiences back to their communities, carrying forward our founder Marie Clews’ mission of fostering the creative process as a catalyst for intercultural understanding.”

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This summer, a group of students from the Art Students League of Denver will get to experience the Château de La Napoule and all its glory. Modeled on the famous Art Students League of New York, ASLD opened its doors in 1987 with a handful of recognized artists teaching more than 100 students within its first year. Located in the historic Sherman School (designed by architect Henry Dozier in 1893), ASLD now engages more than 900 students a month with over 200 noted artists who teach diverse fine arts classes throughout the year. 

In addition to its diverse curriculum, the league has offered ateliers and cultural trips around the globe—from Marrakech to Madrid, Havana to Guadalajara — and this summer it will bring artists to Château de La Napoule through its partnership with La Napoule Art Foundation. 

5 Gardens Courtesy Of La Napoule Art Foundation

The gardens that Marie Clew designed for Chateau de La Napoule are listed by the French Ministry of Culture as among the Notable gardens of France

Taught by ASLD faculty member Sammy Lee, students will focus on creating a one-of-a-kind, accordion-style artist book using mixed-media techniques such as painting, drawing, cyanotype or assemblage (with locally found objects). Each creation will be based off each student’s response to the setting, its architecture, light and the Mediterranean. 

It is critical to La Napoule’s mission and commitment to cultural exchange that artists from all backgrounds are supported and that projects serve to advance the common good. Artists benefit tremendously from these career- and life-changing opportunities,” says Nuanes. The foundation’s mission goes hand-in-hand with ASLD’s mission of encouraging inclusive community engagement through partnerships with performing arts groups, public schools, museums and other art centers. 

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Nuanes says that “through our partnership with the Art Students League of Denver, we see that the artists come away with a rich connection not only to the unparalleled landscape, but also with each other and the creative process.” The château’s setting is the perfect retreat for artists of all disciplines who can spend mornings sculpting on the beach and afternoons painting in the gardens. 


ASLD’s reach won’t be limited to Europe this year either. This fall, ASLD will be partnering with Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, offering art enthusiasts the opportunity to experience the arteba—a renowned contemporary art fair—in Buenos Aires. For the past 30 years, the arteba has helped artists from Argentina and throughout Latin America reach a global audience. Known as the “Paris of the south,” Buenos Aires boasts renowned architecture, world-class cuisine, vibrant entertainment, topnotch shopping and rich historical sites, making this a true bucket-list trip for any aesthete. 

Whether you’re interested in an atelier program or just want to travel to experience art, ASLD offers programs for everyone – artists and art lovers alike. 


Art Students League of Denver
200 Grant St., Denver

La Napoule Art Foundation
191 University Blvd., #576, Denver

Categories: Art & Design