Sunday, September 27, 2015

Four Single-Artist Museums

For me, one of the big attractions of the Côte d'Azur was the chance to see some of the art museums dedicated to the work of a single artist. The experience was mixed.

Henri Matisse, Femme Lisant, oil on canvas

Henri Matisse is one of my favourite painters, and so I was excited at the idea of visiting a museum devoted to his work. After all, Matisse moved to Nice in 1917 and lived there and in nearby towns until his death in 1954. He is surely one of the most prominent of the many artists who have made this region their home.

The Musée Matisse is located in Cimiez, just north of central Nice, where Matisse once lived. It is housed in a beautiful old mansion built on a hill, surrounded by Roman ruins, with park-like gardens and a nearby monastery.

Henri Matisse,
Papeete - Tahiti, 1935, oil on canvas

Unfortunately the collection of paintings is rather thin, and does not represent his most exciting work, though there are some lovely drawings. Photos are not permitted in the museum, but I didn't know that until after I had taken a few, which I have posted here.

Polynésie - Le Ciel
tapestry by Manufacture de Beauvais, 1948-49
after a collage by Matisse, 1946

It was interesting to see this large wool tapestry, an interpretation of one of Matisse's "cut-out" collages.

Musée Chagall:
mosaic and reflecting pool

Having just seen a large show of Chagall at the National Gallery of Canada, I was blasé about the prospect of seeing the Musée Chagall, also in Nice. But of course the paintings themselves won me over completely.

After World War II, Chagall returned to France from the U.S., and settled in Vence. Between 1954 and 1967 he painted a cycle of 17 large murals designed for, and donated to, this museum. The core of the collection consists of these works, inspired by the biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, and the Song of Songs.

Marc Chagall, The Creation of Man,
1950, oil on canvas

There is a child-like simplicity to these images, with their deeply radiant colours and with subjects unfettered by gravity. Chagall's childhood in Russia and his Jewish perspective inform his work.

Marc Chagall,
The Blue Circus, 1950, oil on canvas

The circus was another source of inspiration for Chagall.

Of the four museums of this kind that I saw, the Musée Chagall was the one I most enjoyed. Its beautiful building includes a large outdoor mosaic and an auditorium featuring three Chagall stained windows. Please note that it is now closed until early 2016 for renovations.

Chateau Grimaldi

The Musée Picasso in Antibes is housed in the impressive Chateau Grimaldi, overlooking the sea. The collection consists mostly of work that Picasso completed during his four-month residency there in 1946, and it includes drawings, prints, paintings and ceramics, as well as photos of friends, family, and the artist at work, all taken during this slice of time.

Pablo Picasso, La Joie de Vivre, 1946, oil on canvas

The post-war period was a happy interlude in Picasso's life, and this is reflected in the work. The painting La Joie de Vivre sums up the mood of the works on display. Unfortunately, indoor photos were not permitted.

enjoying the view of garden and city from
the balcony of the Musée Renoir

Finally, the Musée Renoir in Cagnes-sur-Mer is worth visiting only for true fans of Pierre Auguste Renoir. A handful of his paintings is on display, but the focus is on the building where Renoir lived with his family in the last 12 years of his life, 1907-19.

the smaller of Renoir's studios

Many family photographs are on display in the Museum.

Renoir had two studios in his home. The larger one was accessible only by a small set of stairs, which may have been problematic for the wheelchair-bound Renoir in his later years. I like to think he preferred this smaller workspace, with light on three sides and views of his garden.

My advice to the traveling art enthusiast is to make the most of your limited time by researching and prioritizing your art destinations. Remember to take into account travel time to the various locales, and whether the town offers other attractions.

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