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Henri Matisse and the Matisse Museum Nice

The founder of the Fauves, the first major artistic movement of the 20th Century lived and died in Nice. Thus it is apt that the museum dedicated to his art and life is located here. Intense colours and vigorous forms were the movements hallmarks.

Henri Matisse was its principal exponent. The Fauves shattered the artistic world in 1905 with an exhibition in Paris. Unsurprisingly, like most explosive moments of creativity, it only lasted 2 years until 1907 when the Fauves changed their styles.

The Cote d'Azur was the home of many artists. namely Renoir in Cagnes, and Piccasso in Mougins and Antibes. The proximity of such creative forces would result in some of the most beautiful and powerful paintings in Europe.

Piture of Musee Matisse in Nice France

Matisse Arrives in Nice

Mattise moved to Nice in 1917 for health reasons and stayed until his death in 1954. His presence became a major tourist magnet, and people easily associated the city with him. Nine years after he died, the city honoured him with this museum in 1963.

The Musee

Sitting atop the Cimiez hill, the museum is located near the Hotel Regina, where Henri Matisse lived for a time and close to the Ancient Roman ruins. The museum is in an open and cool XVIIth villa. While here you can also visit the close by Franciscan monastery with its Italian gardens. His grave is in an olive grove in the Cimiez cemetery. The choice of locale is deliberate as most artists crave isolation so as to dive into their work. It is not a steep climb, but wear comfortable shoes.

Donated Works Inside

His artistic output was immense and stretched from paintings to gouache cut-outs and engravings. It is all here on display for you showing how his art evolved and matured over a period of 60 or more years. Henri Matisse himself was the first to donate some of his works in October 1953, a few months before he died. These included a painting "Nature Morte aux Grenades" and the cut-out "La Danseuse Creole". Three more bequests would follow between 1960 and 1963, the total of which included about 30 paintings, over 200 drawings, over fifteen illustrated books and more than 100 personal items. With such artistic wealth, the museum opened its doors to the public.

Picture of the Mattise Museum in Nice

More would follow as his children donated his art, such as the Mymphe dans le Foret, Nu Bleu and Baigneuse dans le Roseaux in 1978. Tapestries and sculptures quickly grew in number. One of Henri Matisse's last major projects was the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence; sketches and drawings of what he visualized for it are on display. You would have to go to Vence for the real thing. There are paper dolls, still-lifes, vases and printed fabrics. Not to be missed are the photographs of Henri Matisse at work or rest. Look out for the Portrait de Madame Matisse, one of the oldest pieces dating back to 1905.

History

The villa used to hold two museums, but the Museum of Archaeology was moved out in 1989 to a nearby building. This move permitted a re-imagination of how to display Matisse' work to the public. The new wing was completed in 1993, which would hold his last piece Fleurs et Fruits and the two bronze bas-reliefs Dos II and Dos III.

Enquire Before You Go

Before you visit, inquire as to temporary exhibitions as the curators might be showing something particularly breathtaking. If you are an amateur artist painting in your spare time or a budding professional, then stop by the drawing room where you can be up close and personal to a Matisse.

Henri Matisse never in life separated himself from his art, he always kept his pieces with him. After his death he was laid to rest in the hilltop cemetary of Cimiez. With the Musee Matisse being so close to this location, this mean as in his great life, he should never be parted from his work in death either.


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