remi pesce – in his atelier at st paul de vence

by Sharon Santoni


I am a strong believer in being in the right place at the right time; in walking through open doors and welcoming unexpected opportunities.  Call it destiny if you wish, or fate, it doesn’t really matter.  I just know that I’m extremely happy when in uncharted territory, wondering what is just over that next horizon.

st paul de vence my french country home

Last week in St Paul de Vence, I walked into a food store, hoping to snap a few photos for the blog and started talking to the only other client present, an older gentleman.  In the space of a few minutes our conversation moved from the cheese on sale in the store, to the beauty of the village, to my evident enjoyment being there and suddenly to his invitation for me to visit his studio.  Of course, without hesitation, I said yes.  But I had no idea that the gentleman was a recognised artist, and that this chance encounter would mean that the following morning I’d climb into his car before breakfast and be shown his past fifty years of creative production.

Let me start from the beginning.   Remi Pesce is a well known silhouette in St Paul de Vence.   He has lived and worked here all his life.   He was the handy man for La Colombe d’Or for ten years, until he got married and started his own business, gradually becoming a key figure in the village.

But Remi wasn’t born here, he was born in the east of France, and his mother died bringing him into the world.   An aunt travelled to collect the baby and from the age of eight months he was raised by his grandmother in St Paul.

He grew up here and experienced the golden years of this mythical hilltop town.   He played petanque with Yves Montand, dined with hollywood stars and sipped wine with Picasso, whose portrait he also painted.

St Paul de Vence in the 1960’s was buzzing with creative energy, and Remi became close friends with the sculpteurs Arman and Cesar.  He watched some of the world’s great painters produce their art while at St Paul, and quietly in his corner he decided he also needed to create.

Remi started painting in 1963, and produced his first sculpture in 1973.  He is known in the village for his horse sculpture standing tall on the stone ramparts, and for his big blue fish, but personally I fell under the charm of his paintings,  and his masks and sculptures of heads and faces.

It is hard to convey here how touching it was to be shown around this working studio by the artist, who very simply and humbly explained his work to me.   He repeated that he knew nothing about art, but was simply grateful to have found the means to express himself and his story, and find a creative past time.

This elegant man who turns 87 today, is self made and self taught in so many ways.   From the motherless baby who was transported across France, he came to run a successful business in construction, and  for as long as anyone can remember, has also run the Café de la Place in the heart of the village.   He is equally self taught as an artist, following his instinct and creating what needed to be expressed.

I felt extremely privileged to visit his studio alone in his company.  And when this man explained one of his biggest paintings as being the story of his life, I could see that all his life he has felt the weight of his mother’s death, and all his life he has tried to do well and be joyful, in honor of the woman who he never knew.

This painting portrays Remi as the fish or ‘Pesce’ coming into the world, with the village of St Paul in the background.  His parents are represented on the left with their backs turned, and on the right is  a person keeping care of him, but from a distance.

Today, as I write this text, Remi turns 87.

Happy Birthday to you Remi, and thank you for the beauty of your work and for opening your doors to me and my camera.

And if you’d like to contact Remi about his work, he takes appointments, and can be contacted here.

His website is here:  Remi Pesce



Laura August 19, 2017 - 1:49 pm

Good morning Sharon and Happy Birthday to Remi!!!
How fortunate that your paths crossed on that day. What an exciting adventure for you, to visit with Remi and experience his art and indeed his life. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Patricia Miller August 19, 2017 - 1:52 pm

What a lovely story to wake up to this morning. What a thrill for you and also for him to share his work with you. His art is amazing and spoke to me. Always thanking you for sharing your life and experiences with us

Carol Betz August 19, 2017 - 1:57 pm

What a beautiful story

Felicity Lock August 19, 2017 - 2:02 pm

Such a moving testament to an obviously wonderful man. You never know what’s around the corner or who you will meet along the way – your trip to the shop opened a huge new world to you and enriched your life.
Thank you Sharon for this tender homage to a magical man.
Enjoy yourself in this dear place.
Felicity x

Clare August 19, 2017 - 2:04 pm

Wishing you the happiest birthday dear Remi, you are an inspiration. Sharon, you lucked out the day you met him in the grocery store. We never know what life has for us around the corner!
Thanks for sharing this beautiful adventure!

Janet Schanzenbach August 19, 2017 - 2:05 pm

Sharon, I loved the story and his work. Letting events just happen is what I am looking forward to when I visit France.

Connie August 19, 2017 - 2:10 pm

You’ve got me wanting to visit this place. Thank you for opening up the world of France to me and to so many others. Your blogs are delightful little trips and are so appreciated! Connie

Carly August 19, 2017 - 2:35 pm

What a delightful and wonderful opportunity for you – thank you for sharing! I’m excited to share this with my daughter who loves art as I do. Happy Birthday Remi, and thank you for continuing to be an inspiration to us all.

Trish McB August 19, 2017 - 3:19 pm

Thank you for this very moving story Sharon. I have been to St Paul de Vence a couple of times and hope I am lucky enough to return one day to this beautiful village.

Adrienne August 19, 2017 - 3:33 pm

Happy Birthday Remi!
This is a lovely story Sharon.I’m putting this village on my list of ‘places to visit ‘ in France.

Peg Burke August 19, 2017 - 3:35 pm

What an amazing chance encounter in the cheese shop! Loved all of his different art mediums. Can’t say I could pick a favorite. Being given that private tour must have been glorious!

Pat August 19, 2017 - 3:42 pm

Happy Birthday Remi !! Thanks Sharon for sharing the lovely photos and his story, great way to start my day !

Jean August 19, 2017 - 3:49 pm

Oh my, how fortunate you were to be invited to his studio, what a memory. I was drawn to his paintings, particularly the piece depicting his family. That one went to my heart. I have had similar experiences in New Orleans, Louisiana, an extraordinary place filled with charm, excellent cuisine and creativity. If you have not been there, I recommend a visit.

Sue August 19, 2017 - 3:51 pm

He has done well with such a sad start in life. His art work is very interesting and wonderful. I like his use of colors even in the picture of his parents with him as a fish, his faces have a soft-ness about them, and his fish are beautiful. I think art expresses how an artist feels inside, in their thoughts and life. Thank you for sharing his story and work. Happy Birthday to Remi

david terry August 19, 2017 - 4:27 pm

Oh, Sharon……so you met Remi Pesce in a cheese shop? As you’ll have gathered, he’s scarcely an unknown & unacknowledged quantity.

Your posting sent me scuttling (at 10 am on this sunny morning in North Carolina to retrieve whatever-book-it-was that mentioned him (and, yes, he and his work are so sufficiently memorable that I recalled having read about him a few years go) . I just found it.

St. Paul de Vence does seem to have been a-throbbing with artistes during the 20’s and thirties (obviously, the 1940’s were a different and far more sobering story)……the influx of resident artists included Signac, Soutine, Modigliani, Bonnard, Picasso, Leger, Braque, Rouault,, and Chagall…..(I just quoted that; it’s not as though I carry these facts around in my tiny head).

A hive of busy-bees, indeed….and that’s before Paul Roux showed up with his hotelier’s well-honed instincts.

All in all, I think St. Paul de Vence
wins the World-Award for “How does an ancient village ‘re-invent’ itself, after two centuries of neglect/obscurity?”.

The great surprise (I don’t know how they do it) is that, despite a world-famous art foundation, St. Paul still manages to convince new visitors that they’re the first ones to have “discovered” the place. That’s meant to be a compliment.

As for Msr. Pesce’s art?……..I like & admire it a great deal, particularly the paintings.He does, indeed, seem to work from the heart& impulse….it doesn’t surprise me in the least that he’s spent most of his life working at very “basic” work such as construction and being a “handyman”.

He seems a man who’s quite aware of the essentials, so to speak…….and a very happy birthday to him.

And, Lucky-lucky-you, Sharon….

David Terry

Sharon Santoni August 19, 2017 - 6:00 pm

You are so right David, lucky me indeed! And I love your three paragraph summary of St Paul, you are so clever with words, but I knew that already

Hope you’re keeping well and coping with the summer heat 🙂



david terry August 19, 2017 - 6:44 pm

Oh, Sharon….Secret Admission: a lot of what I know about St. Paul de Vence comes from a deadeningly “well researched” novel (unpublished, for many solid reasons) by a friend of mine who visited there once….and only once. She was, for some reason, “inspired” to write a sorta thriller/mystery set in the town during the German occupation. Huh? She doesn’t even speak French or know anyone French. She’s a lovely person (and VERY through, if not at all interesting, in her historical “research”), but a terribly misguided novelist. Why would anyone write a novel that features Picasso and Sartre (among other famous figures) in St. Paul de Vence, when anyone who would recognize those famous names would be completely aware of where they actually spent the years between 1940 and 1945? I eventually finished reading the manuscript and (stealing the remark from someone else) simply commented/wrote “I can’t think of a single way in which this novel could be improved”.
No need to reply, david terry

sharon santoni August 19, 2017 - 7:32 pm

Gracious David! Let’s hope your friend doesn’t read my blog!!

david terry August 20, 2017 - 11:55 am

Oh, it’ll be just fine for various reasons, Sharon. I thought of the matter, of course, before hitting send. I never forget that, while the subject of one’s comments might not read them this week, his/her grandchildren could very well be reading them twenty years from now. Suffice it to say that my criticism of the manuscript was the least of the problems it encountered. no need to respond, david

Susan Gabriel August 19, 2017 - 4:51 pm

Thank you Sharon for bringing back memories of my visit to this magical place and happy birthday to Remi. The synchroncity you describe is a marvelous wonder once we believe that kindred spirits attract others of like sensibility. Sparks and sighs result and then we can pay it forward by sharing, as you have done with this lovely story. Your adventures are poetic and filled with charm.

Sandra @ Maison De Jardin August 19, 2017 - 5:16 pm

A very happy birthday to Remi and what a lovely story of your meeting. You were meant to be in that little shop at just that moment.

Thank you for this, I felt as though I was there with you.

Kristin McNamara Freeman August 19, 2017 - 6:13 pm

Happy Birthday, Remi…and thank you for sharing the story of following your instincts to see the studio of this lovely man met by chance in the little market..blessings abound in each piece of the story you shared with us today. A million thanks for bringing this light op hope and joy to us all today.

Donna Boekley August 19, 2017 - 8:55 pm

Happy Birthday Remi! Sharon this was a wonderful blog…..and you were blessed to meet this man. Thank you for sharing with all of us!

Suzanne August 19, 2017 - 10:53 pm

All I can say is WOW! Remi’s art is fabulous! I can only dream of ever acquiring even a single piece of Remi’s art, which reminds me of Picasso’s work.

Jenny Brown August 19, 2017 - 11:42 pm

Thank you Sharon for your wonderful story of Remi Pesce. I remember well taking many photographs of Pesce’s horse with that wonderful backdrop vista, but I had no knowledge of the artist who made him.
I was drawn to your story of his mother’s death weighing on him throughout his life. It has given me more empathy towards my own 87 year old father whose mother died when he was 15 and so made his life much tougher. He only speaks of this now as an old man.
Love your book My French Girlfriends and look forward to reading your new one.
Greetings from Australia.

Dana Veach August 19, 2017 - 11:57 pm

Thank you for introducing us to this artist. I am touched by both his story and by the sensitivity, strength, and creative drive with which he has made a place for himself in this world. His work is wonderful…both quiet and powerful.

Taste of France August 20, 2017 - 11:14 am

This will teach you what happens when you chat up a stranger at the cheese counter: wonderful discoveries.
So glad you met Remi Pesce and that you shared him with us.

Robyn August 21, 2017 - 4:44 am

I can add nothing more other than….goosebumps on my arms, tears in my eyes and a smile at both your luck in being in the right place at the right time. Thank you for sharing.

Sandra August 21, 2017 - 5:39 am

I went to St Paul De Vence on my first trip to France in 1996. Was just thrilled. I bought a poster advertising an exhibition by Hendrix Andre Frans at Gallery 84. The price was $10 (Aust) and then $80 to have it beautifully framed when I arrived home. My favourite travel find.

Trisha August 21, 2017 - 6:20 am

Sharon, you know what I love most about your blog, is the kindness that is evident in everything you post. It truly uplifts me. Warm regards, Trisha

maude ciardi August 21, 2017 - 2:51 pm

That was an amazing tour of his work. Just perfect! Thank you for sharing that. I just received your new book and enjoying it. So much to absorb! Loving each page with a new surprise . Thank you for sharing your life with your readers. My dream is to come to your tour but don’t think that will happen so I am enjoying your book and blog

Maywyn August 21, 2017 - 4:14 pm

Happy Birthday Remi!
I love your work.

Thank you for the tour in photos and narrative, Sharon

Emm August 21, 2017 - 10:46 pm

The serendipity of uncharted territory. Those faces! especially in your first photo. Oh, my.
A very joyous birthday to Monsieur Remi, and thank you for bringing his work to us.

Vicky from Athens August 21, 2017 - 11:47 pm

Right place, right time! What a wonderful chance encounter for you. Thanks for sharing your good fortune with us.

Anna August 25, 2017 - 11:27 am

What a beautiful life experience!

MyFiveRoses August 25, 2017 - 9:39 pm

Thank you for sharing your visit with this charming gentleman and his art! It made my day! And happy belated birthday to Remi!


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