‘The Summer for Matisse / ‘Un été pour Matisse’ Part One

Bonjour mes amis! Comment ca va? I have gone all French after looking over my photos from my holiday to Nice and San Remo (Italy) in September. It’s quite fitting that I have taken to look at these photo’s now as the weather is dull and gloomy. I visited quite a number of museums in Nice and San Remo on my holiday.

This summer was ‘Un été pour Matisse,’ or ‘The Summer of Matisse.’ This festival was celebrating 50 years from the opening of the Museé Matisse in Nice. The premise of the festival was that each of the major museums in Nice either had an exhibition on Matisse’s works on various themes or an exhibition of artists influenced by Matisse or active in Matisse’s era. Personally, I feel Matisse is the bridge between late 19th Century Impressionism and 20th Century Modernism. Or as I like to call it ‘the point of no return.’ I am not fond of modern art, sculpture, drawings etc ! But that is a matter of personal opinion.

MatisseMadame et Monsieur Mattise in 1913.

Whilst I did not visit each museums in Nice that had an exhibition on Matisse I did manage to visit the Musee Massena (I wrote about that visit here), Musee des Beaux Arts and the Theatre de la Photographie et de L’Image. I shall write about the exhibitions at the Musee des Beaux Arts and the Theatre de la Photographie. The exhibitions in these two museums were exhibitions by artists that were influenced by Matisse or were contemporaries of Matisse.

Musee des Beaux Arts

The Musee des Beaux Arts is situated in a neo-classical villa in Nice. The museum hosts mainly classical works of art by Rodin, Moreau, Degas, Cheret and various other artists.  The Musee de Beaux Arts pays homage to the painter Gustave Moreau and the influence he had on the career of his most famous pupil Henri Matisse. The exhibition charts the career of Gustave Moreau from his use of thick oils at the start of his career to finer materials at the end of his career.

Moreau’s main subject themes came from the the sphere of biblical and mythological creatures and legends. The exhibition charted the development of Moreau’s work juxtaposed with information about how Moreau influenced Matisse and how Moreau supported Matisse in his early career. I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of the Moreau’s work as there were security guards stationed throughout the galleries. Though this was one of the paintings that were featured in the exhibition:

‘The Peacock complaining to Juno.’ 1881.

There were also works by the artist Adolf Gustav Mossa an illustrator at the time of Matisse and Moreau. Mossa’s work included illustrations of various historical female figures with etheral and other worldly backgrounds. For the time, Mossa’s work was ground breaking and is similar to the style of some Japanese manga artists today. It is hard to find information on Mossa’s life and art works. I personally enjoyed Mossa’s work more than Moreau’s. Though this is probably that Mossa’s supernatural subject matter appealed to me more than mythological creatures. This is my favourite Mossa’ illustrations:

‘Lady Macbeth ,’ Gustav Adolf Mossa.

The Musee des Beaux Arts also has a permanent collection of sculpture and paintings. The museum also has a permanent collection of Jules Cheret paintings. These paintings are soft, etheral works on canvas in pastel or oils. Think Edwardian ladies, fairies, dancers etc. Very impressionist in style and execution. His work is also similar to the style of Henri Toulouse Latrec. Below is my favourite Cheret painting and sculpture (not by Cheret):


‘Ladies at a Picnic,’ Jules Cheret.


‘Lady with a Veil,’ unknown sculptor.

Overall, I felt that the exhibition was well executed and displayed. There were panels discussing the context of both Moreau, Matisse and Mossa’s works. I was able to understand how Moreau influenced Matisse and how he supported Matisse throughout his career. However, the majority of the panels were in French which I was able to understand. I am aware that the museum is in France and that UK based museums don’t necessarily provide information in other languages in exhibitions. There was a leaflet available explaining the exhibition in different langauges, but the English version was far to academic in language. An ordinary non-academic gallery visitor would not be able to understand it!

In ‘Part Two’ I shall discuss the exhibition at the Theatre de la Photographie. I shall also discuss the subject matter of the exhibition in the Theatre de la Photographie in conjunction to women’s roles at the time the photographs were taken. This is a subject that I am very interested in and feel that cramming everything into one blog post wouldn’t do the exhibition justice. Until next, au revoir!

All photographs (c) Rachel Sayers or Ross Davidson unless stated/linked.


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