Tag Archives: Picasso

Matisse Museum – Nice, France

 The south of France is blessed with art treasures, and one of my favorites is the Matisse Museum in Nice

Matisse Museum -  Nice, France

Matisse Museum - Nice, France

Henri Matisse was one of the most important European painters of the 20th century, rivaling Picasso in his influence.  Born in 1869 in northern France, where his family owned a seed business, Matisse went to university in Paris 1887 to study law, and tried his hand at painting almost by accident.  His mother gave him art supplies to pass the time while he was recuperating from an attack of appendicitis, and discovered what he later called “a kind of paradise” in his painting.  “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.”

 Initially Matisse painted traditional still-lifes and landscapes, and was greatly influenced by post-Impressionists Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Signac.  It is said that Matisse nearly went broke purchasing other painters’ works which he admired and hung in his home. 

 Matisse’s career as an artist spanned an incredible 64 years, and this prolific master embraced a wide range of styles, including painting, sculpture, drawings, engravings, and his trademark decoupage cutouts, which he called “painting with scissors”.  His painting styles include post-impressionism, pointillism, and the genre of Fauvism, of which he is the acknowledged master. Fauvism (wild, untamed) is known for vivid colors, flat lines, and an almost one dimensional quality.

 Around 1904, Matisse and Pablo Picasso were introduced to each other in the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein, and they began a life-long friendship and friendly rivalry.   Matisse moved to Cimiez, a suburb of Nice, in 1917 and lived there until his death in 1954. 

 At the age of 77, he began the most ambitious project of his life – which Matisse considers his masterpiece – the design of the Chapelle du Rosaire in the hillside village of Vence, France. 

Chapelle du rosaire Compressed [1]

Over a period of 4 years, Matisse designed the building, created the stained glass windows, painted its murals, designed the bronze crucifix, fashioned the Stations of the Cross, and even designed the priests’ vestments. 

By this point, suffering with cancer and confined to a wheelchair, Matisse painted three murals by use of a long stick strapped to his arm, with a paintbrush affixed to the end.

 Matisse also published several books, with collections of his works and paper cutouts, along with his notes. The museum has a wonderful gift shop, so be sure to stop in to purchase a few prints, calendars, or note cards. 

One final tip, be sure to check out the museum’s bathroom with the cool, automatic toilet seat that washes itself after each use. Okay, I don’t think Matisse invented this, but it has high entertainment value for the kids!

 Getting there

The Matisse Museum in Nice, 164 Avenue des Arènes, 06000 Nice,

Tel: 33- (0)4 93 81 08 08 is open 10:00 am – 6:00 pm every day except Tuesday, and is closed on Bank holidays and major holidays. Check the website or call in advance to be sure you will not be disappointed.  Entrance is 4 Euro for adults, 2.50 Euro for students, and admission is free for children under 18.

Carrieres de Lumieres & Les Baux de Provence

We’re leaving Roussillon, and traveling about an hour to the southwest, en route to Les Baux de Provence.  Les Baux is a medieval village situated on a rocky outcropping in the Alpilles mountains, and is most noted for the castle ruins.  Check out their site: http://www.chateau-baux-provence.com/en/baux/

Les Baux Panorama

Centuries ago, it was the seat of a powerful feudal establishment that controlled 79 towns and villages in the vicinity.  Today, you can wander around and imagine what life was like, defending your castle from all those marauding invaders, who sought to plunder, pillage, and steal your land.

In peak season, Les Baux is a tourist mecca, with day-trippers coming to explore the ruins.  If you’re lucky, you may happen upon colorful medieval re-enactments complete with costumed knights jousting on horse back, and medieval maidens in colorful garb.

Be sure to check out the ancient catapults…..I like this better than smart bomb technology. Les Baux Catapult

Despite all the attractions of this medieval Disneyland, the reason I visit Les Baux (and the whole reason I’m writing this post) is to introduce to you the incredible “museum” down at the base of the village of Les Baux.

Carrieres de Lumieres is an absolute “must see” and worth a long detour. It is an unforgettable sensory experience, the likes of which you cannot imagine. http://www.carrieres-lumieres.com/

Leave it to the French to create a museum where the less imaginative of us would only see an abandoned limestone quarry.  The “museum” was an active quarry until the mid-1900s, as you can see the worker in this photo scoring the stone in preparation for harvest and removal.  les-baux-worker-limestone

Limestone is bright white, and because of the harvesting techniques used, the remaining flat walls of the quarry have become the perfect natural backdrop for the most unique artistic display I have ever seen.  You can see how high the walls are from this photo.


The empty cavern has been turned into a multi-media feast for the senses.  Using a series of 50 projectors, thousands of art images are projected on the 20 foot high walls, as well as the ceiling, and floors.  A soundtrack is written especially for the each exhibit, and the slide show is professionally synchronized and choreographed to the music.

If you visit in the summer, you leave the blazing sun and bright white light of the Provencal countryside, and enter into a dark, cool, cave.  You are enveloped by the darkness, and the cave’s sharp contrast to your senses can be unnerving at first, as your eyes try to adjust to the light.  You stumble around a bit, trying to get your bearings, hoping here is a handrail.  But then, you hear the strains of the beautiful music, and off in the distance, the huge, colorful images come into view. les-baux-still-life

As you are drawn down into the heart of the quarry, you start to feel as if you are becoming part of the paintings.


The works of a different artist are featured each year.  In 2008, the work of Van Gogh is on display (if you hurry, you can still see the Van Gogh exhibit until Jan. 4, 2009), and next year, Picasso will be the “artist in residence”, beginning March 1, 2009.

For me, it is an extraordinary, life-changing experience, as I look around at the moving, visual feast.   The image below is projected on a wall about 20 ft. high.  Look closely and you can see the score marks. les-baux-starry-night

Stunning….powerful….masterful….magnificent……and something you must see and experience for yourself.  I get goose-bumpy just thinking about it.

Words fail me as I try to describe the experience, so I will point you to an article Jean Wright has written for Beyond France website to describe the masterpiece that is Cathedral d’Images http://www.beyond.fr/sites/cathedralimages.html

This has to be in one of those “Hundred Places to See Before You Die” books.  If not, I’ll have to start my own list!  C’est magnifique.

Paris Museum Pass – Save Hours Waiting in Line

Next time you visit Paris, be sure to check into the Paris Museum Pass.  SAVE HOURS OF TIME – NO STANDING IN LINE AT EVERY MUSEUM, save money too; 2, 4, or 6 day passes available  http://www.parismuseumpass.com/en/home.php  Good for Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Notre Dame; Pompidou Modern Art, St. Chapelle, Arc de Triomphe, Picasso & Rodin museums, Palace of Versailles & much more; purchase at any participating museum, Charles de Gaulle Airport, or Paris Tourism office on Champs Elysees, & major Metro stations.