The area of
the Matisse Museum in Nice offers several interesting experiences
In addition to the Matisse Museum itself, you will also find the Museum of Archeology in the immediate vicinity with an outdoor antique excavation area. These are the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and thermal baths. The whole area is adjacent to a small park, Jardin des Arènes de Cimiez ”, which offers a nice walk and the opportunity to sit down and relax with a small meal at the park’s café.
After the park you can also move on to the interesting Franciscan museum, which has a very charming garden and a beautiful view of the Mediterranean.
Experience Matisse and his world up close
The Matisse Museum is one of Nice’s city museums and is free for the Niçois. It is dedicated to the life and works of Henri Matisse as he spent much of his life in Nice and in the Côte d’Azur region. The museum has a large collection of paintings, drawings, engravings, statues and personal objects that belonged to Matisse.
Matisse collection with more than 500 items
The collection contains 31 paintings, 454 drawings and prints, 38 carvings and 57 sculptures.
Although his best works hang in museums elsewhere in the world, this collection provides a good insight into how Matisse’s style developed from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.
One of the highlights of the museum is the 57 sculptures – Matisse created only 82 in total. The museum also has about 200 objects that belonged to Matisse.
Beautifully situated in Villa des Arènes from 1685
The Matisse Museum is housed in an ancient villa from 1685 overlooking an ancient Roman archeological site.
The villa was bought by the city of Nice in 1950 and renamed “Villa des Arènes” after the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheater, which is just a stone’s throw from the museum itself. The facade of the villa is beautifully decorated with classic “trompe l’oeil” decorations around the windows.
The artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Matisse, whose full name is Henri Émile Benoît Matisse, was born in Chateau Cambrésis in northern France, but spent most of his life in Paris and the Côte d’Azur.
Especially the time from 1917 onward was increasingly spent in Nice, where he lived for many years at the former Hotel Regina, which is located a few hundred meters from the Matisse Museum. Today, the impressive mansion has been converted into private homes.
Nice and light inspired Matisse
Matisse produced most of his art in Nice, where he worked until his death in 1954. He lived in different places, and they each influenced in their own way his creative work.
Matisse moves to Vence
In July 1943, Matisse moves to Vence fearing that Nice would be bombed during World War II. He stayed at Villa Le Rêve, where he lived until 1949.
From his room on the first floor, Matisse found the light, nature and conditions that inspired some of his finest works, including the famous “Still Life with Pomegranates” or “Still Life in a Palm Tree Window”.
Matisse greatly appreciated his flowered terrace, garden and the unique view of the historic city of Vence, which also inspired his work.
Chapelle du Rosaire
During his stay in Vence, Matisse was reunited with Sister Jacques Marie, who was his nurse in September 1942 after a serious operation in 1941.
She lived in the Lacordaire home not far from “Villa Le Rêve”. In addition to becoming a model for him, their friendship also became the starting point for what was to become one of Matisse’s most important works – the decoration of Chapelle du Rosaire. A tribute to the sisters of the Dominican order, which was completed in 1951, just three years before Matisse’s death.
Here Matisse lived in Nice & Vence
Hotel Beau Rivage, 1917-1918
Studio, 105 Quais des États-Unis 1918
Villa des Alliés, Mont Baron 1918
Hôtel de la Méditerranée 1918-1921
Place Charles Félix (Cours Saleya) 1921-1938
Hotel Regina 1938-1943
Villa Le Rêve, Vence 1943-1949
Hotel Regina 1949-1954
Buried in beautiful surroundings
Matisse lived his last four years in Nice and died on 3 November 1954 at the age of 84. He was buried in the nearby cemetery, Cimetière de Cimiez, which belongs to the “Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption”, a very nice and well-kept Franciscan monastery that you must not miss.
However, Matisse has been given a very special place in the cemetery. To find it, you have to turn around at the back of the cemetery and down some steps that lead to a small meadow. There, under an old olive tree, is the ordinary, light gray stone tomb that contains the remains of the artist.
He is still considered one of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century. If you want to know even more about Matisse I can recommend this link: https://www.henrimatisse.org/
Use the visit to also experience Chagall
A visit to the Matisse Museum is well combined with also seeing the Marc Chagall National Museum. This museum is only a 20 minute walk from here and is thankfully nice downhill towards the center of Nice.
It is easy to get to the museum by bus from the center of Nice. Bus 15 (and only bus 22 on weekends) are the fastest, but buses 17 and 20 follow the more interesting route through posh neighborhoods. All buses stop at Arènes / Musée Matisse.
Entrance 10€ and is free for the Niçois.
By Tommy Sverre – 2021