Posted by: Brad Nixon | December 12, 2015

Artistic Nice

We’ve been touring part of France’s Côte d’Azur, including an all-too-brief look around Nice. It’s impossible to spend even a short time there without becoming aware of how important the city has been to numerous artists. Nice, like all big cities, has its share of museums and cultural highlights, and in this post we’ll touch on a few. I apologize in advance that this article will be short on imagery. Museums are — no matter how much they strive to occupy remarkable structures — more memorable for what they contain rather than their exteriors, and it’s difficult for an amateur to do justice to artwork in photographs.

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice, 33 av. des Baumettes

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A little west of the central attractions of Nice, this gracious structure was built in 1878 as a private mansion, and has broad hallways and large, high-ceilinged rooms full of art by a wide range of painters, sculptors and ceramacists. The #38 bus gets you there, although it’s an interesting walk up through a residential section of town not all that far from a major shopping street, Rue de France.

The museum’s primary attraction is a significant collection of work by Jules Chéret, known primarily as the originator of poster art, although the museum includes his work in a variety of other formats. It was, for this writer, a first introduction to Chéret, and well worth the time, in addition to other work you’ll find listed at the museum’s website, HERE. Artists in the collection include Bonnard, Sisley, Vuillard, Picasso and Monet.

The grounds of the museum are also worth allowing some time to see.

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Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain, Place Yves Klein

Located in the stretch of public space between the parallel lanes of the Ave. Felix Fauré, this is a museum for devotees — true devotees, that is — of contemporary art. Not so exhausting as those upper floors of the Pompidou in Paris, perhaps, but eye-opening. Website HERE.

Musée Massena, 65 Rue de France

The Counselor and I owe our introduction to Nice to longtime UWS reader and commenter La Boheme and the indefatigable D. Chan, who took us there for our first visit. They recommend the Musée Massena, the museum of the city of Nice, located in a marvelous town house just off the Promenade des Anglais and not far from the Hotel Negresco. They know museums, especially French ones, so investigate the Massena at its website, HERE.

Musée Marc Chagall, Avenue du Docteur Menard

Musee Chagall

Nice and the Cote d’Azur have been the source of inspiration for innumerable artists, writers and musicians. The Russian-French artist, Marc Chagall was one artist who visited the region repeatedly, especially during the years 1923-1941. Nice is now home to this wonderful collection of his work. The core of the collection is paintings (many on a large scale) he created around religious themes, but the museum also contains some stunning work in stained glass as well as sketches and sculptures.

Photo courtesy Bill Pergande

Photo courtesy Bill Pergande

This museum, which is up above the central part of Nice, is not only worth the trip, I consider it a must-see. It’s absolutely wonderful. HERE is a link to the museum’s website for a better look at some of its collection. It’s within easy reach of another not-to-be-missed art museum. However, if you’re on foot, you’re going to get in a good deal of uphill exercise.

Musée Matisse, 164, Avenue des Arènes de Cimiez

If there is one artist most strongly associated with Nice, it is Henri Matisse. Matisse lived there from 1917 until his death in 1954, although he also resided for a time in nearby Vence, where he worked on his designs for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, which we visited in a previous post, HERE. The museum, in the 17th-Century Villa des Arènes now houses a large collection of his work from throughout his career. It is a powerful and exhilarating experience to see it, and simply must be part of your trip to Nice. Particularly compelling, for me, were the works from the very end of his career, showing the verve he still had for creating the new, despite age and infirmity. One can, as we did, walk there and back from the heart of the city, which will provide some lovely views of the city and the sea below you, but it’s a long walk, and you’ll want to consider a bus ride if you’re not utterly at leisure for a day. HERE is the museum’s official website.

We’re having a lovely time here on the Provencal coast; so good, in fact, that I think we’ll prolong our trip by one more article, which will involve crossing the border and traveling just a few miles east into a coastal Italian city.

This is the fourth in a series of posts about visiting southern France. Click HERE to see the first, or use the navigation below to see previous and succeeding posts.

© 2015 Brad Nixon. Some photos courtesy of and copyright by Bill Pergande and M. Vincent. All rights reserved.

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