Trip to Musée Bonnard, Le Cannet

Another artist who made his home on the French Riviera was Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), a painter, illustrator, and printmaker, known especially for the stylised, decorative qualities of his paintings and his bold use of colour. He was a founding member of the Post-Impressionist group of avant-garde painters called Les Nabis,and his early work was strongly influenced by the work of Paul Gauguin, and the prints of Hokusai and other Japanese artists. He was a leading figure in the transition from impressionism to modernism. He painted landscapes, urban scenes, portraits and intimate domestic scenes, where the backgrounds, colours and painting style usually took precedence over the subject. Les Nabis dissolved in 1900 after their final exhibition, each of the artists going their own way.

Shortly thereafter, Bonnard discovered the Côte d´Azur on visits to Saint-Tropez and Nice, finally in 1920 he made his home in Le Cannet (near to Cannes). The painter first rented the villa “Le Rêve” located on Avenue Victoria, before buying in February 1926, a modest cottage-like house. His means would have enabled him to acquire a much larger and more comfortable house, but he was seduced by its quiet aspect. He much appreciated the presence nearby of his friends Matisse and Lebasque that allowed him to have continuous social and artistic contact.

His presence in Le Cannet could best be described as discreet until 1935 when he agreed to participate in the inaugural artists’ fair for which he created a landscape. He remained in Le Cannet for the duration of the war, living alone with his partner Marthe, entertained only by a circle of friends from the world of art. He died on 23 January, 1947 and was buried in the Notre-Dame des Anges cemetery alongside Marthe, who died in 1942.

His death gave rise to a lengthy trial over succession which lasted more than 20 years. Finally, in 1968, after an auction, Bonnard’s cottage became the property of Charles Terrasse, the painter’s nephew who saved his beloved Le Bosquet which, along with its gardens, is now a listed property.

Bonnard’s Collection and Museum

He produced over 300 works while living in Le Cannet, inspired by his private universe (the interior of his house, his garden), but also landscapes of the surronding area, which were explosions of colour and light. Many feel these landscapes were his best works. The surrounding landscape had a profound effect on Bonnard, much like Sainte-Victoire for Cézanne or Giverny for Monet.

These works are now largely housed in the museum in Le Cannet which was only opened in 2011 after a long project to bring it to fruition, near to Bonnard’s former home. The museum makes use of one of the few architectural remains of the Belle Epoque, l’Hotel Saint-Vianney.The museum’s forecourt, public reception area and museum “showcase”, opens onto the boulevard Carnot. To preserve the building’s esthetics, an exterior column (sheltering the lift and stairwell) was built on one side of the villa.

While encompassing Pierre Bonnard’s entire career, the museum’s content is mainly focused on his Cannet period. The collection, made up of acquisitions, donations, public and private deposits, has been growing steadily since 2003. Consisting predominantly of landscapes, added to which in January 2010 was the purchase of Nu de profil and the state loan of La Salle à manger au Cannet, 1932. The museum has also acquired some of his earlier works, such as posters, illustration and furniture projects, as well as a rare draught-screen project, La Promenade des nourrices, frise de fiacres, 1897.

Covering three floors, the museum has one or two exhibitions per annum generally one taking into account all aspects of Bonnard’s works and another on a particular theme which may include those artists whose work resonates with that of Bonnard. The exhibitions are greatly facilitated by the museums’s partnership with the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. If you’re visiting Cannes, the museum is well-worth a trip.

Trip to Musée National Henri Matisse, Nice

The Musée Matisse is part of a vast heritage complex in Cimiez that includes the Roman arenas and ruins, a garden with hundred-years old olive trees, as well as the Cimiez monastery.

Henri Matisse (1869 to 1954) is considered by many to be the most outstanding representative of Fauvism, a style which emphasises painterly qualities and strong colour over the representational values of Impressionism. Though, before this, he painted in many different styles. He was a noted friend and peer of Pablo Picasso. From 1917 until his death, except for a five-year break when he lived in nearby Vence, Matisse lived in Nice, creating his works in a studio located in the “Yellow House” in the Cours Saleya, in Nice’s Old Town.

Matisse first stayed in the building which now houses the 4* Hotel Beau Rivage, when he came to Nice to cure his bronchitis. Unfortunately, it rained for the whole month, so he painted the interior of his room over and over again. On the final day the sun came out and, when he saw the light, he was hooked. He stayed here until he died of a heart attack. He is buried with his wife in the Cimiez cemetery, near his eponymous museum.

The Musée Matisse was inaugurated in 1963 on the second floor of 17th century Villa des Arènes (formerly the Palais de Gubernatis – after the first owner), to exhibit the artist’s and his heirs’ gifts to the City of Nice. It is one of the largest collections of the French artist’s works.

In 1989, the Archeological Museum, which previously shared the same building, moved out to its own dedicated building to facilitate a remodeling of the museum. Architect Jean-François Bodin rethought the interior spaces of the old Genovese villa and designed the expansion to accommodate a vast foyer, an auditorium and a bookshop. The new building was inaugurated in 1993. An educational workshop was added in 2002, and a design office in 2003.

In 2013, the ceramic La Piscine, a gift from Claude and Barbara Duthuit (Matisse’s grand-son and wife) , was installed in a dedicated room, on the entrance level. In 2017, another renovation project rethought the way visitors interacted with the space, remodelled the entrance and installed interactive educational devices.

Matisse Museum, Nice

The museum perfectly documents the various stages of the artist’s development. Several dozen paintings; hundreds of drawings, prints, and photographs; sculptures, mostly made of bronze by Matisse himself; as well as books illustrated by the artist and numerous cut-outs, have been gathered together here. In addition, the museum houses everyday objects that belonged to Matisse.

An exhibition about the Chapel of the Rosary (Chapelle du Rosaire) located in Vence and designed by Matisse occupies its own space. The museum has, among other things, a scale model of the chapel, as well as the projects of individual works constituting the chapel’s equipment.

This is yet another of my favourite places in Nice and can easily be combined with a visit to the nearby Musée Marc Chagall.

Trip to the Louvre, Abu Dhabi

The second stop on our recent brief trip to Abu Dhabi was the Louvre which was inaugurated in November 2017 by French President Emmanuel Macron and UAE Vice President Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi,  Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The museum is part of a 30 year licence agreement between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government.

Designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, it’s the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula and cost in excess of US$750 million. In addition, Abu Dhabi paid US$525 million for the licence agreement for the name, plus a further US$750 million for art loans, special exhibitions and management advice. Artworks from around the world are showcased at the museum, with particular focus placed upon bridging the gap between Eastern and Western Art.

Quite a collection of antiquities

The museum is part of a US$27 billion tourist and cultural development which includes the building of three further museums, including the largest Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim, the Norman Foster designed Zayed National Museum, a performing arts centre designed by Zaha Hadid, a maritime museum and a number of art’s pavilions.

No(u)vel roof construction

The Louvre is a series of concrete buildings pulled together by a metallic ceiling designed to provide shade and reflect light into the museum like a natural palm frond. The tidal pools within the galleries create the illusion of a “museum in the sea” while protecting artwork, artefacts and visitors from the exterior and corrosive marine environment.

Some of the exhibits are outside the halls
Looking towards Abu Dhabi from the Louvre

We spent over two hours here but it wasn’t long enough to enjoy all the museum had to offer and I would suggest spending an entire day here to fully appreciate everything. The main exhibition showed the intertwining and influence of different civilisations, establishing a dialogue between the four corners of the earth. Plus it showcases works from multiple French museums.

An early Monet with not a water lily in sight!

The space is impressive and even though there were plenty of visitors it didn’t feel crowded. We didn’t avail ourselves of the catering facilities as we were too busy enjoying the exhibits though we did use the restrooms. The museum’s forthcoming exhibition Rembrandt, Vermeer and the Dutch Golden Age will display 95 works by the renowned fijnschilders (fine painters) of the Netherlands.