The Matisse Museum in Nice has an important collection of Henri Matisse paintings and sculptures. It is a top Côte d’Azur day-trip destination especially on rainy days.
The Musée Matisse Nice is one of the Nice city museums that are free to all visitors. It is dedicated to the life and works of Henri Matisse, who spent much of his life living in Nice and the Côte d’Azur region. The museum has a large collection of painting, drawings, engravings, statues, and personal items belonging to Matisse. Although his best works hang in museums all over the world, the museum does give a very good overview of how his style developed. It also has a significant collection of Matisse sculptures. The museum is especially popular on bad weather and rainy days – art lovers may find it much quieter on sunny days.
The Artist Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) is one of France’s most important modern artists. He was one the initiators of Fauvism – the move away from Impressionism and the first art movement of the twentieth century.
In contrast to other members of the Fauvism movement, such as Picasso, he preferred to paint body parts where nature intended them to grow. Although generally classed as a classic modern artist, his later works prepared the way for abstract expressionism that became especially popular in the USA.
Matisse was born in the north of France but spent much of his life in Paris. From 1917 onwards, he spent increasing amounts of time in Nice and the Côte d’Azur, including many years in the former Regina Hotel across the road from the museum.
The Musée Matisse Nice on the French Riviera
The Matisse Museum in Nice has a large collection of works by Henri Matisse including almost his entire collection of sculpted works. Matisse and his family donated most of the items in the museum to Nice.
Matisse worked in many mediums but is primarily known as a painter. The museum has a collection of 68 paintings and gouache découpés (cut paper collages). Although his best works hung in museums elsewhere in the world, this collection does give a good overview of how Matisse style developed from the late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries. Like Van Gogh, his color pallet became increasingly brighter after he moved south.
Matisse was also an accomplished draughtsman and print maker. The museum has around 500 sketches, engravings and illustrated books.
A highlight of the museum is the 57 sculptures – Matisse created only 82. The museum also has around 200 items that belonged to Matisse. Many served as models and can be seen in paintings
The museum display some of the designs by Matisse for the stained-glass windows and other decorations for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence. Matisse considered these to have been his masterpiece.
Visiting the Musée Matisse Nice
The Matisse Museum is open Wednesday to Monday year round from 10 am to 6 pm. It is closed on January 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, and December 25. Admission is free. English information sheets are available.
The museum is in a red 17th-century Genovese villa in the Arènes Park in the Cimiez suburb in the north of Nice. The Roman ruins here are not the best in France but it is worth peaking over the fence and walking through the remains of the amphitheater. The archeological museum and Franciscan monastery are also inside the park.
Getting to the museum is easy by bus from downtown Nice. Buses 15 (and 22 on weekends only) are the fastest but buses 17 and 20 follow the more interesting route through posh neighborhoods. All use stop Arènes / Musée Matisse.
A visit to the Matisse Museum combines well with seeing the Marc Chagall National Museum. This museum is 20 minutes walk downhill – or six stops on bus 15 or 22.
Nice and the Côte d’Azur have many further Matisse-related sights and works – ask for a flyer at the museum or tourist office.