Matisse, born in Cateau-Cambrésis in the North of France, discovered Nice for the first time in 1916. He settled down for his first winter stay in the Beaurivage hotel, at a few metres from the sea which had inspired him since his first journeys in the south. He rented then, in spring, the villa of the Allies in Mont-Alban. Next year, he settled down in the hotel de la Méditerranée, alternating his stays in Nice and Paris until 1921when he definitively settled down in Nice. He was 52 years old, he was famous, his career was made, his reputation was immense among painters and collectors. A great part of his best productions was realized before the first world war, in particular during the Fauve period or during his journeys to Morocco. His paintings, maybe more precious in the 1920's, found a new power in the drawing and in the colours in the years in Nice. This adoptive inhabitant of Nice knew how to paint the light passing through the venetian blinds or the quiet atmosphere of the interiors at the time of the Southern siestas. He settled down at first place Charles - Félix, in a building which closed the end of Cours Saleya, an ideal place to be in the heart of the historic and popular Nice: He stayed there 17 years. In this studio, he realized sunny still lives and lying nudes, odalisques, with a still luminosity. He rented for a short period a studio behind Masséna secondary school, in the street Désiré-Niel, in order to realize the famous suite on dance ordered by Barnes in 1930. When he wanted to relax, Matisse, who had a passion for rowing, would frequent the Club Nautique de Nice. In 1938, Matisse bought a large apartment in the former hotel Régina, in Cimiez. After a serious surgery in 1941and the disturbances due to the war in Nice, he settled down in Vence where he remained 5 years in the villa Le Rêve, place of rest and of renewed creation in spite of his fragile health. In 1948, he returned in his Cimiez large apartment where he developped a renewed creation with cut papers, a technique imposed by his physical problems, but he transcended it with his inspiration. In 1947, Matisse gave all his support so that the former barracks of the fire brigades of Les Ponchettes, an ancient Sardinian arsenal of the XVIII-th century, should be transformed into a new place for modern art. The place was inaugurated in 1950 with a brilliant Matisse exhibition. He conceived in his studio of Nice, one of his last important works, the chapel of Vence, a large part of the models was realized by the technique of cut papers. Inaugurated in 1951, it reflects the feeling of happiness due to light contemplation, one of the major constants of Matisse’s creation. This master,who took such an important place in the XX-th century visual arts, died in his Régina apartment , on November 3, 1954. The funeral took place in the church of Cimiez convent. Two years later, he was buried, in a new place specially offered by the city of Nice, along the Roman Way, close to Cimiez cemetery. The grave is simple and modest, directed southward, summarizing so symbolically Matisse's life.

Gilbert CROUÉ

 

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