On-line Guide: Matisse in Nice
Posted Feb 2019 in Go & Do
Matisse adored the Riviera. After a childhood spent in the industrial town of Bohain-en-Vermandois, he relocated to Nice permanently in 1917, captivated by the spectacular light of the region.
He lived in Nice for most of his life (first in the grand yellow building at the eastern end of Nice’s Cours Saleya, called place Charles Félix, and latterly in the Hotel Regina in Cimiez), and then fled to Vence after the Nazi invasion. Want to immerse yourself in Matisse? Here’s where the magic happens:
Chapelle du Rosaire
466 Avenue Henri Matisse, Vence,
Tue, Thu 10-11.30am, Mon-Thu, Sat 2-5.30pm, Fri (hols only) 2-5.50pm,
closed mid Nov-mid Dec
€3, under 26 years €1.50
Simple and ethereal, the Chapelle du Rosaire is a popular spot for tourists. Not merely beautiful, the Chapelle had a personal role in Matisse’s life: it is said that his former nurse (a model-turned-Dominican nun) requested its creation, and that Matisse poured his heart and soul in to the project.
Just across the road from his final home, the Villa le Rêve, the sun radiates through the blue, yellow and green glass windows, creating a church like no other. This visit is what you make of it; expect an entrance fee for what can be a simple ten minute look around, or an enlightened peaceful, introspective experience. Sit in a halo of light and simply glow. We’d recommend the guided tour explaining more about this much loved quirky man who was a self-proclaimed atheist but regarded his lifetime’s work masterpiece a church.
Getting there: bus line 400 is the quickest at 80 minutes, or line 94 at 90 minutes.
For a group, you might prefer a transfer with a company like Friend in France.
164 Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez, Nice,
open 10am-6pm Mon, Wed-Sun free
This is where you find the bulk of Matisse’s work including examples of his 1940s Jazz paper cut-outs, as well as his various muses: household objects, including vases, chairs and mirrors. The works are chronologically laid out, so you can walk through his life’s differing periods of artistic endeavours.
To learn more about Matisse, before you visit, stop into the Nice Tourist Office and pick up the excellent free booklet, In the Footsteps of Matisse, which charts the artist’s life, work and inspirations along the French Riviera. You can visit his grave at Franciscan cemetery.
Getting there: You can either walk (30 minutes) or from Etoile / Old Town take the bus lines 15 or 17, around 20 minutes to Matisse / Arenes. Bus lines 4 and 20 might be more convenient if you are near Gambetta / Victor Hugo, though this takes 40 minutes.