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 arrives in Nice on December 25 1917, Matisse rents a long and narrow room. The banal decor of the room is improved by the presence of a large window overlooking the sea. He paints 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
Studio, 105, quai des États-Unis
Looking for a studio, Matisse rents 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).
May – June 1918
Villa des Alliés, Mont-Boron
His hotel being requisitioned, Matisse moves on May 9, 1918 and rents for two months the villa des Alliés, situated in a tree-filled park. He paints there mainly landscapes. During the summer, his youngest son, Jean joins the army.
Autumn 1918 – 1921
Hôtel de la Méditerranée (25, Promenade des Anglais)
After spending summer in Issy-les-Moulineaux, Matisse returns to Nice and stays at l’Hôtel de la Méditerrannée which no longer exists today. He stays there every winter until 1921. The interiors of his successive bedrooms become the subjects of his works. He turns them into a theatre set, investigating the effects of the subdued light filtering through the shutters and surrounding his models with fabrics, flowers and 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, deliciousHenri 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 Cours Saleya
1921 – 1938
Pierlas Caïs Palace, 1, Charles Felix Square, Cours Saleya
Matisse rents a flat on the 3rd floor of the Pierlas Caïs Palace before moving to the 4th floor in 1927. From then on, he spends 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, nude paintings and odalisques are key features of his “Nice period”.
Studio 8 rue Désiré Niel
IMatisse works to scale in this former garage converted into a studio and paints there the huge decorative mural, La Danse commissioned by the Barnes Foundation. In 1932 he hires Lydia Delectorskaya as a studio assistant and then, in 1933 as his wife’s companion. In 1935, Lydia becomes his model and his assistant.
October 1938 : the Régina, on the Cimiez hill (71, Cimiez Boulevard)
Matisse buys a flat in this former hotel designed to welcome Queen Victoria at the end of the19th century
End of June 1943
End of June 1943
Faced with the threat of German occupation, Matisse moves in Vence to la villa Le Rêve. In December 18 1938, he returns to the Régina where the space is better suited to his late project, the Chapelle de Vence and his monumental cut-outs.
Matisse’s first exhibition in Nice, at the Palais de la Méditerranée.
The Galerie des Ponchettes opens with an exhibition devoted to Matisse and organized by the UMAM (Mediterranean Union for Modern Art). The Galerie des Ponchettes is expected to become a future Matisse Museum.
Inauguration of the Chapelle de Vence.
3 novembre 1954
Matisse’s death. He is buried in the cemetery of the Cimiez Monastery.