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
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
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