Must-see Museum

Musée Matisse is located in a posh suburb of Nice, located on the Colline de Cimiez. He lived in Nice from 1917, until his death in 1954. The museum is a 17th century (sun-faded) Genoese villa, next to an archeological site, and is surrounded by an olive grove. This museum follows Matisse’s artistic career for 37 years. Here you’ll see engravings, sculptures, drawings and paintings. He is synomynous with modern art.

You will have plenty to see: Archaeology Museum, Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez – a cemetery where Matisse was buried, and the Gallo-Roman amphitheater, Roman baths and ruins. A beautiful panaramic view of Nice can be seen here.

Archaeological Site

Roman ruins

The center of an ancient Roman city of Cemenelum, that was the capital and garrison city for Roman troops some 2000 years ago, founded by Octave Augustus. The amphitheater could seat thousands of spectators while watching the gladiators. What you won’t see is… most of the city is still below the earth.

“Woman at the Piano” 1924

Portrait de Madame Matisse 1905

“Portrait de Madame Matisse” 1905

“Tête de Lorette sur fond vert” 1916

Henri Matisse was a self-invented artist since he had no formal training. His mother gave him a set of paints when he had appendicitis…and the rest is history. What interested him most was the human figure, clothed and unclothed. His legacy lives on here during his life in Nice, France.

“Lectrice a la Table jaune” 1944

His paintings are colorful, with exaggerated form, which are elements that I enjoy. Most of the works at this museum were donated by Matisse, his wife, and heirs.

Place Charles Felix – Cours Saleya

A building that I have admired, for 20 years, happens to be where Matisse had an apartment. Place Charles Félix is at the end of the Cours Saleya, where you can’t miss the gold-ochre Italianate town-house. Here, Matisse had his flat, first on the third floor, then the fourth from 1921 to 1938. This is where from his apartment window, over-looking the Mediterranean, he found inspiration with the movement of the sea and air.

“The Fall of Icarus”  (Cut-Outs 1944)

In the last decade of his life; wheelchair bound, he was unable to stand for any length of time. Now, his art became cut-outs; he called it painting with scissors.

Just a little history lesson here — German armies were in France and while Matisse was bedridden, he lived with German troops in his basement and shells bursting in the garden. I now understand this work of art during this difficult time in his life, especially the story behind this pinheaded figure, Icarus, who was an ancient Greek who fell to his death as he flew too close to the sun. Hence… the drooping figure, fiery red heart, and bombs exploding. Matisse identified with Icarus as his own life was a mess.

His contemporaries rejected this unconventional art, yet it spoke to a later generation who saw that he worked around his disability. What a great use of form and color…a brilliant finale.

Don’t forget to view the knobby old olive trees; these trees are centuries old and its where Matisse often walked.

Matisse Olive Trees


The likelihood of a wet day in Nice can vary throughout the year for 11 months and peaking by mid-November, which is the wettest month. I’m accustomed to going to museums on rainy days since I don’t let the outside prevent me from exploration of any kind, and it’s a great back-up plan for foul weather. Why spoil a perfectly good day with blue skies inside—right?

So dress well in fall and winter months: in a poncho or jacket with a hood as I do, and make the most of dreary weather.

Musée Matisse – 164, avenue des Arènes de Cimiez – Nice (easily reached by bus) Closed Tuesdays.