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Saint-Tropez – a legendary destination
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Young, unknown painters, such as Signac, Matisse and Crosse, were so astounded by the light in Saint Tropez that they decided to settle here. They would later be joined by prestigious writers, such as Maupassant, Colette, Sartre and Sagan, before cinema came to complete this town’s mythical image.

Episode 1: Signac and the ‘Peintres de la lumière’

Saint Tropez was a little fishing port brought out of the shadows by the painter Paul Signac, who discovered the village in 1892. Astounded by the light, he decided to settle here and bought a house, La Hune, where he set up his studio. He would be quickly joined by his friends, including Cross, Matisse and Marquet, all of whom were struck by the light. From then on, Saint Tropez became a meeting place for artists and writers, and a myth was starting to be be born…

Le musée de l'Annonciade à Saint Tropez©E Bertrand
La Treille Muscate à Saint Tropez©Var Tourisme / Elisabeth Loffreda

Episode 2: Colette

During the ‘Roaring Twenties’, Colette bought a house – la Treille Muscate – where she wrote several of her works: La Seconde, Sido, Le Pur et l’Impur, La Chatte and La Treille Muscate. The town was becoming increasingly well-known, with painters, writers and global celebrities coming to stay, including Dunoyer de Ségonzac, Errol Flynn, Picabia, Anaïs Nin, Henry Miller, Joseph Kessel, Francis Carco, Louis Jouvet, René Clair and Mistinguett.

During the 1930s, Léon Volterra, a Parisian theatre manager, became the Mayor and brought in the crowds: Louise de Vilmorin, Jean Cocteau, Arletty… This was a turning point for Saint Tropez, with night-time parties becoming increasingly popular.

Colette, irritated by the noise and burgeoning quirkiness, decided to leave, and sold her house in 1939 to the actor Charles Vanel.

Episode 3: Saint-Germain-des-Prés

The Second World War was the death knell for this insouciance. The port of Saint Tropez was blown up by the Germans. An exact copy was rebuilt after the war, and it became the summer residence of the existentialists and followers of Saint-Germain-des-Prés: Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Juliette Gréco, Boris Vian, Daniel Gélin, Annabelle Buffet, Pablo Picasso, Jacques Prévert, Françoise Sagan… It was the return to a life without limits. Saint Tropez became a fashionable seaside resort, where tourists would come in their droves.

Sur le port de Saint Tropez©Var Tourisme / Pierre Hilly
Le Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinéma à Saint-Tropez©E Bertrand

Episode 4 : Saint Tropez becomes Saint-Trop’

However, it was the film ‘And God created Woman’ in 1956 that would truly lead to the myth of Saint Tropez. This film made its leading actress, Brigitte Bardot, a sex symbol across the world. In 1958, she bought ‘La Madrague’ and settled here permanently, consecrating a love-story with Saint Tropez that would last forever.

Due to its growing fame, Saint Tropez witnessed in the 1960s the craze of the New Wave, followed by the ‘yéyés’ (French Sixties music). Saint-Tropez became Saint-Trop’. Other films were shot there, such as ‘The Swimming pool’ in 1968 with Alain Delon and Romy Schneider, the ‘Gendarme’ series with Louis de Funès or even the series ‘Sous le soleil de Saint-Tropez’.

Today, Saint-Trop’ has become the holiday destination for jet-setters, billionaires, play-boys and starlets – a place where you come to be seen. However, when the glitter fades away, the little fishing port also knows how to seduce lovers of the sea and the Provençal way of life, as well as history and culture lovers.