High on the hill of Cimiez is the museum devoted to the painter and former Nice resident, Henri Matisse. Painted in cheerful red and yellow tones and decorated with trompe-l'oeil, the museum is housed in a stately 17th century Genoese villa that had belonged to the Guernatis family. Surrounding the museum is the 36,000 square-meter Jardin des Arènes de Cimiez replete with olive, pine, cypress and cabob trees.
Matisse's first works dating from 1890 to 1905 are displayed on the ground floor of the villa. Noticing his "first" painting, Nature Morte aux Livres and various copies he did of works found in the Louvre provides an invaluable starting point for understanding Matisse's progression.
Matisse's stay in Nice is memorialized in his masterpieces Tempete a Nice (1919) and Odalisque au Coffret Rouge (1926). Also notice his most famous paintings from the 1930s which include Fenetre a Tahiti and Nymphe dans la foret.
An entire room is dedicated to the papercuttings the artist created in later years as his physical health declined. Also interesting is the collection of studies Matisse executed in preparation for his magnificent stained glass in the Vence chapel.
Throughout the museum, the life and personality of the artist is evoked through displays of the objects he admired enough to paint as well as photographs of Matisse, his wife and his models.
In addition to the permanent collection housed in the villa, a series of temporary exhibitions are mounted in the villas new, modern wing.
How to Get to the Matisse Museum
Stay in Cimiez
By car, head north from center Nice along the bd Carabacel and follow signs to Cimiez.
Buses number 5 and 33 go to the top of the hill where the Monastery, Roman baths and Matisse Museum are located
Hours are 10am-6pm Wednesday-Monday.
Telephone 04 93 13 78 78 or see the museum website, www.musee-matisse-nice.org.