History of the museum

A brief history of the museum

A collectors' museum

The Aix museum, which took the name of one of its most generous benefactors, the painter François-Marius Granet in 1949, owes its origins to the members of the Provence parliament - part of the Ancien Régime nobility of the robe who cultivated a taste for the arts and history. The parliamentarians put together remarkable collections throughout the 17th and 18th centuries for display in their private mansions, making them the pride of the city.
The presence of this affluent elite in search of social recognition, as well as the city’s strategic position at the crossroads between the north of Europe and Italy, fostered a local flowering of the arts, which the museum was gradually able to display, through various means.

Fauris de Saint-Vincent makes the creation of the Aix museum possible

Without playing a direct role, the French Revolution, through the changes it induced, made the idea of a public museum gradually more prevalent.
When the Revolution started, the historical and archeological collections were already present at the town hall in celebration of the city’s status as the capital of Provence. The free drawing school opened at the Collège Bourbon (now the Lycée du Sacré Cœur) in 1766 had a collection for its students to study; the school moved premises for the first time in 1798 to the Couvent des Andrettes (currently the Lycée Mignet). The purchase by the town in 1821 of the cabinet of curiosity of the parliament’s president, Fauris de Saint-Vincens, displayed in the town hall, added momentum to this process.

In 1824 the town hall’s municipal collections opened to visitors.
In 1825 the former priory of the Order of Malta in the aristocratic neighborhood of Mazarin was purchased. In 1828, the drawing school and its own collections were transferred there.
In 1831 it was also decided to transfer the town hall’s collections to the priory, a decision made effective in 1833. The inauguration of the Aix museum only took place in 1838, during the official ceremony for the drawing school awards. The museum was then placed under the authority of the director of the above-mentioned institution, up until 1947.

From cabinets of curiosity to the Planque collection

The collections, which were initially modest, were later expanded through purchases, gifts and bequests by the parliamentarians - most often as early as the Ancien Régime, including Sallier’s (1840) and d’Aubergue’s (1905) historic cabinets of curiosity, recalling that of Fauris de Saint-Vincens, the painting and sculpture collections of Bourguignon de Fabregoules (1860) and the de Gueidan family (1882), Constantin’s (1850) and above all F.-M. Granet’s (1849) studio works from Aix, and the oriental collections of Dol (1942) and Lagier (1987). The work of Paul Cézanne made its dignified entry into the museum’s collection in 1984 with the long-term loan by the French state of eight of the artist’s paintings. The long-term loan of the major modern art collections of Philippe Meyer (2000), a collection given to the French state for long-term loan to Aix, and Jean Planque (2011) mark the definitive entry of 20th and 21st century art into the museum’s collections.

In order to correctly display these collections, many buildings were constructed over the years around the priory of the Order of Malta. Fully rebuilt between 2003 and 2006, the exhibition space of the Musée Granet was once again increased in 2013 with the addition of the former chapel of the Pénitents Blancs des Carmes. This 17th century building was renovated to display the Planque collection under the title “Granet XXe” as a testimony to the dynamic development of the establishment.


The musée Granet’s collection has evolved over the years, swelled by the city’s acquisitions and several major bequests, including works donated by François-Marius Granet, to become what it is today - a collection of more than 12,000 works and masterpieces !