Musée Matisse, Nice - Façade ouest et sud du musée, vue générale Photo : A Vol d’ Oiseau / Droits réservés

Henri Matisse and Nice

Matisse discovered Nice, more than a hundred years ago, in December 1917. He produced most of his work in this city where he lived until his death in November 1954. The many places where he lived and worked deeply influenced his creative process and left their imprint on all the decisive stages of his work including the culmination of his artistic career, the cut-outs and the Chapelle de Vence

Most come here for the light and the picturesque beauty (or scenery). I am from the North. The large colourful reflections in January, the brightness of the day are what attracted me to settle here.

Bridault, 1952, quoted in Henri Matisse, Écrits et propos sur l’art, Paris, Hermann, 1971, p. 123

1917-1921 : Discovering the city and first stays

December 1917 – March 1918

Hôtel Beau Rivage (107, quai des États-Unis, Promenade des Anglais)

When he arrived in Nice on December 25, 1917, Matisse rented a long and narrow room. The banal decor of the room was improved by the presence of a large window overlooking the sea. He painted there his first “Nice Interiors”.

When I realized that every morning I would see this light again, I could not describe my joy. I decided not to leave Nice, and I stayed there practically all my life.

Bridault, 1952, quoted in Henri Matisse, Écrits et propos sur l’art, Paris, Hermann, 1971, p. 123
Jean Gilletta, Hôtel Beau Rivage, Nice, postcard, Priv. collection
© Droits réservés

April 1918

Studio, 105, quai des États-Unis

Pierre Matisse jouant du violon, 1916
Pierre Matisse playing the violon, 1916
Photo: Archives Henri Matisse/ D. R.

Looking for a studio, Matisse rented from his friend Léonce Pelletier a flat next to the Hôtel Beau Rivage, on the Promenade. Matisse’s son, Pierre, posed there for the famous painting Le violoniste à la fenêtre (Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris).

105, Quai des États-Unis, Nice
105, quai des États-Unis, Nice
Photo: M. Bérard

May – June 1918

Villa des Alliés, Mont-Boron

His hotel having been requisitioned, Matisse moved out on May 9, 1918 and rented for two months the villa des Alliés, situated in a tree-filled park. There he mostly painted landscapes. During the summer, his youngest son, Jean, joined the army.

Villa des Alliés, 138 boulevard du Mont-Boron, Nice
Villa des Alliés, 138, boulevard du Mont-Boron, Nice
Photo: M. Bérard

Autumn 1918 – 1921

Hôtel de la Méditerranée (25, Promenade des Anglais)

Hôtel Méditerranée et de la Côte d’Azur, Nice, vers 1900, carte postale
Jean Gilletta, LHôtel de la Méditerranée et de la Côte d’Azur, Nice, circa 1900, postcard, coll. Archives Municipales, Ville de Nice
Le hall de l’hôtel de la Méditerranée et de la Côte d’Azur, Nice
The entrance hall of L’hôtel de la Méditerranée et de la Côte d’Azur, Nice
Photo: D. R.

After spending summer in Issy-les-Moulineaux, Matisse returned to Nice and stayed at the Hôtel de la Méditerrannée which no longer exists today. He stayed there every winter until 1921. The interiors of his successive bedrooms became the main subject of his works. He turned them into a theatre set, investigating the effects of the subdued light filtering through the shutters and surrounding his models with fabrics, flowers and different kind of objects.

An old and good hotel, for sure ! And what beautiful Italian ceilings! What tiles! They were wrong to demolish the building. I stayed there for four years for the pleasure of painting nudes and figures in an old rococo salon. Do you remember the light that came through the shutters? It came from below like a theatre ramp. Everything was fake, absurd, amazing, delicious

Henri Matisse in Art News Annual, 1952, quoted in Henri Matisse, Écrits et propos sur l’art, Paris, Hermann, 1971, p. 123

Autumn 1921 : Moving to Nice on the Cours Saleya

1921 – 1938

Pierlas Caïs Palace, 1, Charles Felix Square, Cours Saleya

Matisse rented a flat on the 3rd floor in the Pierlas Caïs Palace before moving to the 4th floor in 1927. From then on, he spent half of the year in Nice. In his flat/studio he positioned his models in carefully arranged and highly theatrical settings, using an array of props, furniture and fabrics from his own collection. Still-lives, interiors, nudes and odalisques are key features of his “Nice period”.

Le Palais Caïs de Pierlas, 1 place Charles-Félix (cours Saleya, Vieux-Nice)
Palais Caïs de Pierlas, 1, place Charles-Félix
(Cours Saleya, Vieux-Nice)
Photo: Ville de Nice, Musée Matisse
Henri Matisse on the balcony of his flat place Charles-Félix, Nice, 1920s
Photo: Archives Henri Matisse / D. R.
Sea view from Henri Matisse’s flat
Nice, 1928
Photo: Archives Henri Matisse / D. R.

1931

Studio 8 rue Désiré Niel

Matisse worked to scale in this former garage converted into a studio and painted there the huge decorative mural, La Danse commissioned by the Barnes Foundation. In 1932, he hired Lydia Delectorskaya as a studio assistant and then, in 1933 as his wife’s companion. In 1935, Lydia became his model and his assistant.

Henri Matisse travaillant à La Danse de Barnes, rue Désiré-Niel, Nice, vers 1931-1932
Henri Matisse working on La Danse, rue Désiré-Niel, Nice, circa 1931-1932
Photo: Archives Henri Matisse / D. R.

October 1938 : the Régina, Cimiez hill (71, Cimiez Boulevard)

January 1938

Vente du Régina, affiche de Jean Cassarini, 1937
The Régina for sale, poster by Jean Cassarini, 1937
Photo: Droits réservés

Matisse bought a flat in this former hotel designed to welcome Queen Victoria at the end of the19th century

End of June 1943

Confronted with the threat of German occupation, Matisse moved in Vence to the villa Le Rêve. In December 18, 1938, he returned to the Régina. The space was much better suited to his last projects, the Chapelle de Vence and his monumental cut-outs.

L’atelier au Régina, Nice vers 1953 avec Danseuse créole (à plat), L’Escargot et Souvenir d’Océanie au mur
The flat/studio at the Régina, Nice around 1953 (with Danseuse créole (on the floor), L’Escargot and Souvenir d’Océanie on the wall
Photo: Archives Henri Matisse / D. R.

1946

Couverture du catalogue d’exposition Henri Matisse, Nice, Palais de la Méditerranée, 1946
Cover of the “Henri Matisse” exhibition catalogue, Nice, Palais de la Méditerranée, 1946
Photo: Ville de Nice, Musée Matisse

Matisse’s first exhibition in Nice, at the Palais de la Méditerranée.

1950

The Galerie des Ponchettes opened with an exhibition on Matisse and organised by the UMAM (Mediterranean Union for Modern Art). The Galerie des Ponchettes was selected as a potential space for the future Musée Matisse.

Affiche crée par Henri Matisse pour l’Union Méditerranéenne pour l’Art Moderne (UMAM) et la promotion de la ville de Nice, 1949
Poster created by Henri Matisse for l’Union Méditerranéenne pour l’Art Moderne (UMAM) and the promotion of the City of Nice, 1949
© Succession H. Matisse, Photo: Ville de Nice, Musée Matisse
Jean Gilletta, View of the “Henri Matisse” exhibition at la galerie des Ponchettes, 1950
Photo: Archives Henri Matisse / D. R.
View of the “Henri Matisse” exhibition at the galerie des Ponchettes, 1950
Photo: Archives Henri Matisse / D. R.

1951

Inauguration of the Chapelle de Vence.

3 novembre 1954

Matisse’s death. He is buried in the cemetery of the Cimiez Monastery.

Back to top