Eight Not to be Missed Art Museums in and around Nice

Nice and its environs offers a great selection of museums and galleries for art enthusiasts – and Spring is a perfect time of year to visit!

1. Musée Matisse Nice

A perfect location for the sunny Mediterranean colours that evoke the work of Matisse, the Musée Matisse is situated in Cimiez in the hills above Nice, where Matisse lived for much of his life. In in a beautiful ochre-coloured 17th century villa, the museum houses a huge number of the artist’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, engravings and personal effects.  Walking through the rooms guests can see how his work evolved from early Impressionist influences, to the bolder themes and colours of Fauvism, to the cut-outs he created later in his life.

Address: 164 av des Arènes de Cimiez, Nice
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 53 40 53

2. Musée Marc Chagall, Nice

Also, located in Cimiez, the Musée Marc Chagall, is known as the “National Museum Marc Chagall Biblical Message”, as  it houses the series of seventeen paintings illustrating the biblical message, painted by Chagall and offered to the French State  in 1966. A second gift in 1972 included all the preparatory sketches, so you see the complete work from conception to finish. More items were added later, making this the largest collection of Chagall’s work.

Address: Av. du Dr-Menard, Cimiez, Nice
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 53 87 20

3.  Musée Jean Cocteau/Collection Severin Wunderman, Menton

The impressive Jean Cocteau Museum has an equally impressive location on the waterfront at Menton, right by the marina. Dedicated to the French artist, poet, novelist and filmmaker, Jean Cocteau, it incorporates the collection of American businessman, and Cocteau enthusiast, Séverin Wunderman.  Cocteau first visited Menton in 1955, and the city declared him an honorary citizen in 1958. Near the museum is the small Bastion Museum, decorated, and opened to the public in 1966, three years after his death.

Address: 2, quai de Monleon, Menton

Tel: +33 4 89 81 52 50

4.  Musée Renoir, Haut-de-Cagnes

In a peaceful location in Haut-de-Cagnes, and surrounded by olive and lemon trees, is the delightful Musée Renoir, which was the painter’s home until his death in 1919. At his death, he bequeathed it to his son Claude Renoir who lived there until 1960, after which the town of Cagnes-sur-Mer bought the estate, and the house became a museum.  Renoir’s  furniture and other personal objects, are left as they were when he lived there, as well as his atelier, complete with easel.  The museum has twelve original paintings by the master, including a version of Les Grandes Baigneuses.  The 6-acre garden is open to the public, from where visitors can enjoy the superb views, extending as far as Cap d’Antibes.

Address: 19 chemin des Collettes, Haut-de-Cagnes
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 20 61 07

5. Musée Picasso, Antibes

In another amazing Côte d’Azur location, the Château Grimaldi, which Picasso used as a studio in 1946, stands on the ramparts overlooking the sea in Antibes. The windows of the 14th century building give a wonderful light to the collection of Picasso’s work on display here – ceramics, drawings, paintings and prints, including his paintings, “The Goat” and “La Joie de Vivre. The museum also houses some stunning works by Nicolas de Stael from the last two years of his brief life, plus paintings by Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, and Juan Mirò.

Address: Chateau Grimaldi, Antibes
Tel.: +33 4 92 90 54 20

6.  MAMAC (Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain), Nice

Situated right in the heart of the city of Nice, near the Place Garibaldi, this enormous white marble building (4500 m2), constructed in Carrara marble,has been designed as a tetrapod arch.  It contains an exciting collection of European and American modern art, since the 1960’s, notably New Realism and Pop Art.   The gallery spaces are devoted to temporary exhibitions on the first floor, and the permanent collections are on the second and third floors.

Address:  Promenade des Arts,  Nice

Telephone:  +33(0)4 97 13 42 01

7. Musée Nationale Fernand Léger, Biot

Just south east of the hilltop village of Biot, this museum is in an imposing building designed by the Russian architect, Andrei Svetchine in 1960. Especially built to house a huge collection of works by Fernand Léger, the first thing you notice on arrival  is the enormous ceramic mosaic that decorates the eastern façade. The museum contains over 348 original artworks, drawings, oil paintings, stained-glass windows and mosaics, arranged chronologically, showing Léger’s progression from Impressionist to Cubism and his extraordinary later works with their geometric, robot-like style.

Address: Chemin du Val-de-Pome, Biot
Tel.: 00 33 04 92 91 50 30

 8.  Musée des Beaux-Arts, Nice

Originally built for a member of Nice’s Old Russian community, the Princess Kotschoubey, this 19th century Italianate mansion is itself a work of art, with its grand staircases and palatial rooms. From the Negresco Hotel area the museum is about a 15-minute walk up a gentle hill. The chronology ranges from 15th-century pieces, to great 18th-century artists, such as Fragonard, to some wonderful Impressionist paintings.  Rodin’s sculpture, The Kiss, overlooks an ornate marble staircase.  Some of the jewels of the collection are missing following a dramatic daylight robbery in August 2007, during which paintings by Breughel, Monet and Sisley were snatched, but many gems remain, including paintings by Degas, Boudin, Monet and Sisley.

Address: 33 av. des Baumettes, Nice

Tel:  04 92 15 28 28

Six Great Reasons to Explore London’s Art Scene over the next few weeks

There is always an abundance of great exhibitions in London, but (and maybe the terrible weather conditions are making indoor activities particularly tempting at the moment!) we are really loving exploring London galleries this month.  Here are a few favourites …

  1. The EY Exhibition – Paul Klee at the Tate Modern, until 9th March

This has to be one of the very best exhibitions currently in London, and even if you feel you are familiar with the paintings of Paul Klee, as you walk through the various rooms, following his development chronologically, you will find much more to discover and appreciate. With elements of cubism, surrealism and pointillism in his work, he remained above all, an individualist and a great creative innovator who had an enormous influence on subsequent artists such as Rothko and Miró.

      2. Hello, My Name is Paul Smith at the Design Museum, until 22nd June

We loved this exhibition, which is a wonderfully personal journey of how Paul Smith began with a tiny shop in Nottingham, to become the fashion influence he is today.  His obvious joy in just seeing something magical in the most mundane things (‘every day is a new beginning’), personifies this modest and very intuitive designer – who even pops into the exhibition himself from time to time to chat to visitors, as we were lucky enough to experience.

      3.  Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore! at  Somerset House, until 2nd March

With Fashion Week this week, it is fitting that this celebration of the extraordinary life and wardrobe of Isabella Blow, is on for another couple of weeks. A late British patron of fashion and art, she is credited for having nurtured and inspired numerous artists and designers, notably Alexander Mc Queen and Philip Treacy.  There are some wonderful clothes on display, and some video footage – we left with a both a feeling of admiration, and also a degree of sadness and compassion, for this eccentric and very individual figure who was committed to what she believed in, and pushed the boundaries of convention in the fashion world.

      4.  Bailey’s Stardust at the National Portrait Gallery, until 1st June

This is a fantastic exhibition, and much bigger than we even expected, but then David Bailey’s very prolific career has spanned more than 50 years. The exhibition is presented as themes, rather than chronologically  so visitors can appreciate the huge range of subjects he has captured on camera – from East End gangsters to musicians, actors and models, to his travels in India, Papua New Guinea and Australia. With 250 framed photos, the exhibition offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the work of one of the world’s greatest photographers.

       5.  Hannah Hoch at the Whitechapel Gallery, until 23rd March

Hannah Höch, whose career spans the period from 1910 – 1970, is mainly known for her influence on collage.  Splicing together images taken from fashion magazines and illustrated journals, she created a humorous and moving commentary on society during a time of tremendous social change.  Along with her fellow Berlin Dadaists, she opposed the traditional art forms of Weimar Germany and sought to express the chaos and political change after the First World War.  As the first major exhibition of her work in Britain, the show puts this inspiring artist in the spotlight.

     6. Richard Hamilton at the Tate Modern, until 26th May, and the ICA, until 6th April

This recently opened two venue exhibition is a collaboration between Tate Modern and the ICA, representing Richard Hamilton’s impressive  output during 60 years of collage, installation, painting and printmaking.  Widely regarded as a founding father of Pop Art, the exhibition includes the installation of ‘Fun House 1956′ which, as a centrepiece of the exhibition, combines images from movie-posters, magazines and art history. The depiction of Mick Jagger in the series ‘Swingeing London 67′, as well as images of other celebrities such as Bing Crosby and Marilyn Monroe, show Hamilton’s continued interest in popular culture. Along with this, there are examples of political art from the later Thatcher and Blair eras.

3 Cortona villas with some delicious extras this summer

Situated in the eastern part of Tuscany, near the border with Umbria, picture-postcard Cortona is one of the oldest Tuscan hill towns, founded by the Etruscans, and more recently made famous by Frances Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun. Its steep medieval streets are a delight to explore, and there are wonderful views over the the Valdichiana and the Tuscan hills from the ancient town walls, with parts dating back to Etruscan, Roman and Medieval times. The town has much to offer in the way of historic and artistic interest, including its Diocesan Musueum with works by Fra Anglico Luca Signorelli and Pietro Lorenzetti.  Towering above the town is the Basilica of Santa Marherita and the Fortress of the Medici family, as well as the Heritage Le Celle where Saint Francis, patron saint of Italy lived.

The area around Cortona is known for the cultivation of top quality wines and olive oils and with many excellent restaurants, a stay here is indisputably a gourmet’s paradise.  During the summer, the town holds an annual T-Bone Steak Festival and a Porcini Mushroom Festival.  Other enticements include an event on 10th August, known as“Goblets Under the Stars” where you can taste excellent wines from the best local wineries. Cortona also hosts a large furniture market in August and September.

Our three villas are on a large wine and olive oil producing estate, about  6 kilometres drive from Cortona, or guests can choose to enjoy a scenic 2 kilometre walk to the centre of the town.

 Villa di Liliana is situated near the main villa of the property, occupied by the charming owner. The other two villas (Villa di Orlando and Villa di Nello) are in completely different areas of the estate, making the three properties very private, yet also suitable for larger groups, or three families wanting to travel together. Each villa also has its own private garden and swimming pool, and all enjoy spectacular views over the countryside.

For summer 2014, the owner is offering two packages, giving guests the opportunity to sample Tuscan food and wine his own house.  One package comprises a welcome dinner on arrival, with a delicious 3-course menu, using fresh local products, including extra-virgin olive oil produced on the estate, as well as an unlimited supply of Brunello di Montalcino wine.  Those who want to repeat the experience during their stay, can also arrange to have another dinner at the main house, cooked by a professional chef, including a choice of starters, main courses and dessert and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva wine.

Cortona can be reached by flight to Perugia, Rome or Florence,  and by train from Florence, Rome and Arezzo.