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Musée Matisse

Musée Matisse

Nice Matisse Muséum

In December 1917, Matisse rents a room at the “Hôtel Beau Rivage” in Nice, facing the Mediterranean sea, near the Cours Saleya and the flower market. He has come here to treat bronchitis but it keeps raining for a month: “In the end I decided to leave the town. The day after, the mistral cleared the clouds away, the weather was superb. When I realised that every morning I would see that light again, I couldn’t believe my luck. I decided not to leave Nice and I have lived here practically all my existence” Created in 1963, the Matisse Museum is first located in the top floor of a XVIIth century Italian house, “La Villa des Arènes” whose ground floor is occupied by an archaeology Museum. The villa stands on the hill of Cimiez surrounded by a vast and spectacular Gallo-roman site.

When in 1989 the foundation of a separate proper Archaeology Museum is decided, the architect Jean- François Bodin conceives a complete restoration of the villa and its extension by an aisle on two levels, one being underground, accessible by wide outdoors stairs. Matisse’s work can then be displayed in the complete renewed and extended edifice. The entrance to the building is done through the new part whose pure lines nicely balance the original “Villa des Arènes”.

The red ochre of the south front underlined by the white of the ruins that lay in tiers at the foot of the house, outlined with the dark green cypresses, is highlighted by the Mediterranean sky light that had allured Matisse. A masterpiece of harmonious proportions and colours, the museum also has the benefit of very special surroundings The Matisse Museum is set in a roman town, Cemenelum, conquered by the Romans in the first century. To the east and the south, the antique town spreads out such as it was built between the first and seventh centuries. Bordered to the north by an olive trees garden, to the west the museum is next door to the circus of the “Arenas”

The permanent collection is due to various bequests. The first gift was donated by Matisse himself in 1953, it includes among other masterpieces “La Nature Morte aux Grenades” one of his most famous paintings. The second bequest was received from Madame Matisse. Then, the artist’s heirs bequeathed two other gifts. These four founding donations made up the original collection which was later completed by other bequests and state loans. Here is a unique case where one can follow the artist’s whole creative processes in one and only building.

His multidisciplinary itinerary that goes from drawing to painting, from sculpture to paper cut-outs can be discovered in an educational observation of all the periods and range of mediums in Matisse’s career. This remarkable set includes, among many, the paintings: “La Liseuse à la table jaune” and the “Fauteuil Rocaille”, the drawing: “La Vierge à l’Enfant”, the sculpture: “La Serpentine” and his most famous piece all over the world the paper cut-out “Nu Bleu IV”. Every year, temporary exhibitions are organized as well as lectures cycles and presentations of art films.

Musée Matisse
164 Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez
Phone : 04 93 81 08 08
e-mail :

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