Painting Retreat on the French Riviera


Students are housed in the 19th century Italianate “Villa” (above) and in the Château.

The Château de La Napoule
With Diane Dahlke, May 15–22, 2017
Info Session: Sunday, December 4th
3:00-4:00pm in Osher Hall

The theme of this international painting course is inspired by the idea that seeing is “forgetting the name of the thing one sees,” a quote often attributed to the French poet Paul Valéry.

This idea will serve as the jumping off point for our week-long painting retreat led by long-time CS painting faculty Diane Dahlke at the Château de La Napoule on the French Riviera.

Working in oils, acrylics, or watercolors, painters will live and work at the Château, a castle dating back more than 2000 years and perched on the banks of the Mediterranean Sea in La Napoule, France. Students are housed both in the Château and in a private Villa on the grounds. Most meals take place in the grand dining room of the Château. With its eight acres of formal gardens and sculpture adorned architecture, the Château holds two coveted distinctions from the French Ministry of Culture: Monument Historique and Jardin Remarkable.

The retreat’s ideal painting students are those who consider themselves at least at the intermediate level and who are interested in their own personal development. Unfortunately, the retreat (this year at least) is not intended for beginning painters as we will not be discussing technique or materials on a novice level.

Important Information

We will hold an Informational Session on Sunday, December 4th from 3:00-4:00PM in MECA’s Osher Hall. Meet Diane Dahlke, discuss the curriculum, view slides from previous retreats and learn more about the history of the Château and the great beauty of its environs.

Trip Dates: May 15-22, 2017
Trip Fees: $1800 per person. This fee includes: course tuition, most meals (breakfast each day and dinners from Monday to Friday), and transportation to/from the Nice airport. This fee does not include airfare.

To Register Please call the CS Office at 207.699.5061. A $300 deposit (refundable before January 31) is due upon registration. Final payments are due March 1. Spaces are limited!

For more information, please see our FAQ list below.


What is a typical day like?

  • Early morning: walk the beach or the Château’s gardens, hike Mt. San Peyre (a small mountain minutes away), coffee on the terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, or sleep in!
  • 8:00am: Breakfast at the Château
  • 9:00am-12:00pm: Diane gives a short lecture on different topics (shape, positive/negative space, value, color) that apply to all genres or styles of painting, followed by a brief exercise on that topic. The remainder of the morning is yours to paint in whatever parts of the Château grounds are most inspiring– the terrace, private beach, the gardens, the Villa patio, out your room’s window, any nook or cranny of the Château itself…the choices are endless. Diane rotates among students for feedback and discussion.
  • 12:00-1:00pm: Communal lunch
  • 1:00-5:00pm: Independent painting/on your own
  • 5:00pm: Critique/discussion + cocktails/tea hour. On one evening we will host the delightful Christine Viesinger, scholar on French Painters of the 20th Century, for a talk and slide show, followed by dinner at the Château
  • 7:00pm: Dinner in the grand dining room
  • 9:00pm: Stargazing, beach walking, reading, cards, up to you!

Can non-painters attend the retreat?

Absolutely! This area is a paradise for all kinds of artists, so photographers, writers, filmmakers, those who wish to draw or just explore are welcome to register. Feel free to sit in on the critiques and lectures, too. Just know that the majority of students will spend their time focused in a painting class.

How do I get there? Will there be a group flight?

Nice, France (Aéroport Nice Côte D’Azur) is the closest airport to our destination, approximately 30 minutes away from the Château by car. There are flights from Boston (none direct, but all offer connections to Nice). We will be arranging a group flight leaving Boston on May 14 returning on May 22. For those wishing to travel in a group, please let us know. Those taking this flight will have a spot in our shuttle to/from the Château. We will likely be able to accommodate others arriving on different flights on Monday as well.

What is the housing like?

Most participants will be housed in the newly renovated Villa Marguerite (Italianate 19th century) where each room has a sea view, a garden view, or a mountain view– and its own bathroom. If we exceed capacity at the Villa where most rooms are doubles (a few singles), some of us will stay in the Château itself which has generally smaller, single rooms.  NOTE: Each room is unique and each room is quirky in its own way. We will assign rooms as registrations come in so you are encouraged to register early if you have specific requests or needs.

All accommodations are on the 2nd and 3rd floors. Due the the historic nature of the buildings, there are no elevators or air conditioning. The first floor of the Villa has a fully equipped kitchen at our disposal, a living room, a dining room and a computer room with WiFi. There is also a garden patio and terrace.

What are the meals like?

Breakfast (8:00am) and dinner (7:00pm) take place at the Château. Continental breakfast is provided daily and a French cuisine dinner is offered Monday through Friday evenings on the Château’s terrace or in the grand dining room. Vegetarian options are available nightly. Wine is not served but may be purchased separately in town and brought to dinner. With a full kitchen at our disposal and groceries within walking distance, lunches are communal in the Villa’s kitchen. There are plenty of places to buy baguettes, meats, cheeses, salad ingredients, etc nearby.

What is the town like?

The town center of La Napoule is a 5 minute walk from the Château. There you will find a pharmacy, bakeries and small grocery stores, a bank, restaurants, etc. The train line running East-West along the coast makes a stop at La Napoule and schedules are available online or at the station.

Do I need to rent a car?

No. However, if you wish to explore the area beyond what taxis or the local train is able to provide, you may want to. Once we have a cohort in place students can perhaps group together and share costs if a certain extra-curricular destination is desired.

What is the weather like at this time of year?

Typical daily temperatures range between 55-70 during mid-May, but as in Maine, fluctuations within one day may occur.

What about painting supplies? Do I bring my own? Are there easels there?

Yes, you will need to bring whatever supplies you plan to use, though the Chateau does have plenty of easels. Traveling with paints can be tricky, so you’ll want to check your airline’s regulations. Fortunately there is a very nice art store nearby for any toxic., difficult to transport, or forgotten items.

Isn't the Cannes Film Festival happening nearby at the same time?

Why yes it is…. and it’s pretty exciting! A short, 10-minute train ride away and it’s cinematic mayhem. (You’d never know it from our quiet spot at the Château). Spend an afternoon or evening sitting in a cafe in Cannes and you’ve surely secured the best people watching spot there is. During the Festival there are also free movies (past Palme d’Or winning films) screened on the beach for free. Can’t beat that.

How can I learn more about the Château?

See for more information about the Château, its mission and its founders, Henry and Marie Clews.

What else is there to do in the area?

  • Stroll the town and shops of Mandelieu-La Napoule (2 mins away on foot)
  • Tour the town of Cannes during the Cannes Film Festival (10 min train ride; or for the adventurous, a 5-mile walk on the beach)
  • Evening film on the beach at the Festival (free, 10 minutes train ride)
  • Casino (5 minute walk)
  • Chagall Museum (Nice)
  • Two islands off La Napoule (15 minutes): Ile Saint-Honorat and Ile Sainte-Marguerite
  • Picasso Museum (Antibes)
  • The Maeght Center
  • Matisse Museum (Nice)
  • —and so much more!

Please contact the CS Office if you have any other questions at all: 207.699.5061.