The Rhône Valley is one of the truly beautiful places. It is home to vineyards, olive trees, delicious goat cheese, and a landscape that is unimaginably beautiful.

My first glimpse was in May of 1989, when I took a teaching assistant job at Lacoste School of the Arts in the Vaucluse Département of France. I left New York City, jumped really, for the job.

The TGV high speed train heading south from Paris took me to Avignon, a medieval city with beautiful architecture, ramparts around the center and the Rhône River flowing by. Things were looking up. The drive east looked even better with every kilometer. My comrade Thaddeus* drove but would not say much about our destination. He drove up a steep road to a little hilltop village, pulled the car over near an ancient stone church and hopped out. My head swiveled in all directions taking in the dressed limestone walls and clay tile. He casually walked through an arch and signaled me to follow.

We came to a low wall, and stopped to look out over the most gobsmacking, jaw slacking mouth gaping, sonnet inspiring sight I had ever seen. As I scanned the valley below us, he clearly enjoyed the comical look on my face. It seemed unreal. Nothing had prepared me for this beauty. All the paintings of Van Gogh and Cezanne, the Roman architecture of antiquity, the vineyards of great wine country, and the light of the Mediterranean rolled away from my eyes. The incredible reality that I was to draw, paint and live here for the next six months dawned on me.

I’ve returned a few times to this exquisite land. I loved every minute of painting the landscape of the Rhône, and back in my studio in New York or Rhode Island, it kept spilling out of me for long afterwards. In 2000, on one such trip, I stayed in an old country house, or Bastide, with family and friends in the wine region of Côtes du Rhône Villages.

Painting at St. Roman de Malegarde, 2000

Behind our bastide I found that a back road led me to the top of a hillside vineyard, which overlooked an approach to the village of Cairanne. A wine village seen from a high point, with roads winding through vineyards surrounding it, it was irresistible and I stood among the vines and painted this canvas.

Rhône Vineyards, 2000

The painting hung in my mother’s home when it came back from France and remained there for 22 years. I recently exhibited it again at Tiffany Peay Jewelry and it now has a new home with collectors who fell under the spell I did when this story began in 1989.