Nice, France: Matisse and Chagall Museums – Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide – Travel Bite

Nice, France: Matisse and Chagall Museums – Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide – Travel Bite


The Matisse Museum offers
a fascinating introduction to modern art inspired
by the French Riviera. Henri Matisse opened a window
onto paradise. Armed with the bright colors
of the Impressionists, Matisse captured the radiant
Riviera of the 1920s: seascapes, fruit, flowers,
and curvaceous women. Matisse was the master
of leaving things out, letting us fill
in the rest. Matisse painted
the three-dimensional world as a two-dimensional pattern
of vibrant colors. You don’t look “through”
Matisse art like a window; you look “at” it. You can trace his work
as it evolves. It became simpler with time,
from detailed realism, to a colorful
“impressionistic” style, to bold blocks
of bright colors, to ever simpler forms, paring images down
to two basic elements: line and color. His series called “Jazz,”
like the music, celebrates artistic
spontaneity and the otherworldly beauty
that art can create. Matisse enjoyed a long
and continually evolving career. In his 70s, fighting cancer
and confined to a wheelchair, he traded easel painting
for a new medium: paper cut-outs. The cut-outs are a single
color with a strong outline. Scissors in hand,
Matisse said, “I cut straight
into the color.” The Chagall
Museum is nearby. Starting in the 1950s, Marc Chagall painted
a cycle of canvasses designed for
this building. Even if you’re suspicious
of modern art, this museum, with the largest collection
of Chagall’s work in captivity, is a delight. Seventeen biblical scenes
make up the “nave,” or core, of what Chagall called
“The House of Brotherhood.” Each painting is
a lighter-than-air collage of images inspired by Chagall’s
Russian folk village youth, his Jewish heritage, biblical
themes, and his feeling that he existed somewhere
between heaven and earth. Chagall paints a world
that’s hidden to the eye: the magical, mystical world
below the surface. He blends
personal imagery, particularly from his
childhood in Russia; the Hasidic Jewish perspective
he absorbed as a child — that’s the idea
that God’s everywhere, in nature, animals
and everyday things; gravity-defying
compositions, with lovers, animals, and angels
twirling blissfully in midair; and childlike simplicity —
simple, heavy outlines, often spilling over
with Crayola colors. Chagall saw the bible
as a synonym for nature. His brilliant
blues and reds celebrate nature
and its creator. His couples are
enchanting. To Chagall,
humans loving each other mirrored God’s love
of creation. He wrote, “In art
as well as in life, anything is possible,
provided there is love.”

11 comments on “Nice, France: Matisse and Chagall Museums – Rick Steves’ Europe Travel Guide – Travel Bite

  1. In our life there is a single color, as on an artist's palette, which provides the meaning of life and art. It is the color of love.” – Marc Chagall

  2. Can't wait to take my group there in September this year, it's an amazing place. Thanks so much for creating this great video on one of the most amazing museums in France. Nice is a great city.

  3. I like Chagall and Matisse has been growing on me. Matisse took the colors of impressionism and made them more abstract. He was one of the pioneers in post impressionism. I like Chagall better, his use of color and design remind me of my childhood.

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