Basking within the French Riviera’s Lively, Luminous Art

Basking within the French Riviera’s Lively, Luminous Art


With its romantic shoreline, inviting seashores, and dependable sunshine, southern France’s Riviera area has been a vacationer vacation spot because the 1860s. In the 1920s, aristocrats from London to Moscow flocked right here to socialize, gamble, and escape the dreary climate at residence. But the world additionally attracted a Who’s Who of 20th-century artists, who had been drawn by the Mediterranean’s bohemian ambiance, luminous gentle, and contrasting colours of sea, sand, and sky.

The legacies of the various artists who labored within the south — together with Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, Fernand Léger, and Pablo Picasso — are memorialized right now in an intriguing assortment of museums. And visiting them is straightforward, as none of them are usually tormented by the lengthy strains and crowds of main museums in Europe’s massive cities (leaving you loads of time for the seaside). Here are a few of my favorites:

In 1907 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, whose Impressionist work straddled the final flip of the century, constructed a home and workshop for himself in Cagnes-sur-Mer (midway between Nice and Antibes). By then an outdated man, Renoir would spend his final 12 years on this little village fortunately tending his fruit bushes, portray in his studio, and dabbling in sculpture. You can see his atelier, along with his easel and palette nonetheless in place (in addition to his wheelchair and canes), and a few unique work.

Henri Matisse, the grasp colorist, first got here to Nice in 1917, abandoning monetary struggles and a tough marriage in Paris. He would stay within the Riviera, on and off, till his loss of life in 1954. Though this museum’s assortment is slender, you may see typical examples of a variety of his favourite motifs (flowers, fruit, feminine nudes) in addition to his love of ornamental patterns and joyful colour.

Marc Chagall settled within the Riviera after World War II. His best-known work function a magical-realist fashion that conjures up his native Russia, with fiddlers on roofs and horses in flight. Chagall had a hand in designing this pleasant museum, which incorporates his Biblical Message cycle: 17 massive luminous canvases on biblical themes, painted in vivid reds, blues, and greens that handle to mix elements of his Russian-Jewish heritage with the Christian story.

Pablo Picasso, the pioneer of Cubism, summered on the Riviera practically yearly from 1919 till he died in 1973. He had hunkered down in Paris for many of World War II, however in 1946 he returned to Antibes, on the coast, the place he spent a productive a part of a yr working within the city’s landmark Château Grimaldi. Forced to improvise his supplies after the shortages of the battle years, however elated by the newfound peace (and a brand new girlfriend), Picasso produced an incredible quantity of celebratory, colourful artworks. The compact museum now housed within the Grimaldi presents a manageable have a look at the work and sketches Picasso made there.

After his sabbatical in Antibes, Picasso moved on to Vallauris, a typical Riviera village halfway between Antibes and Cannes. The little city was residence to a number of lively artwork potteries, and Picasso turned so enamored by the ceramics he noticed that he resolved to take up clay as a medium. He ended up staying in Vallauris till 1955, and the museum there’s a good place to grow to be acquainted along with his playful strategy to ceramic artwork.

This inviting, personal museum, located simply above the inland city of St-Paul-de-Vence, presents a superb introduction to fashionable Mediterranean artwork. Its founder, the Parisian artwork supplier Aimé Maeght, bought an arid hilltop within the 1960s, planted it with 35,000 bushes and shrubs, and employed the Catalan architect José Luis Sert to design a museum for his assortment. Today it gathers below one roof the work of many well-known fashionable artists (Fernand Léger, Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Georges Braque, Marc Chagall). The beautiful setting, with a verdant sculpture backyard, is a bonus.

Matisse convalesced from most cancers surgical procedure in 1941 with the assistance of a Dominican nun, and years later, in 1949, he repaid the favor by designing this tiny chapel within the hills above Nice. Deceptively easy, the chapel is tiled in plain white, with just a few black-on-white line drawings (one depicts St. Dominic). But yellow, inexperienced, and blue stained-glass home windows filter the daylight, making a cheery dance throughout the partitions — expressing Matisse’s irrepressible love of life. It’s an area of sunshine and calm that solely a grasp may have created.

Thanks to those numerous museums, the Riviera has a cultural richness that is not typical of resort areas. The collections replicate the congenial joie de vivre of southern France: the playfulness, freedom, colour, and wonder that conjures up artists to today.


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