Marc Chagall

Museum of Marc Chagall is a gem of French Riviera. It is one of the best and intimate museums I have ever been to. This museum is the first museum that was dedicated to a living artist, it was opened in 1973 at the bottom of the Cimiez hill in Nice. This museums is unique because artist was curating it himself. So he could display everything exactly how he wanted and he fully realised his artistic potential.

The museum building was executed by Marc’s friend – Andre Malraux and was designed as a house. This is why the museum is rather small yet you can spend hours there. It is full of natural light which compliments the paintings. Marc Chagall was a music lover so he commissioned the auditorium which was build very quickly upon request. This hall has great acoustic and every year it opens to the public so they can enjoy musical concerts. Chagall decorated this auditorium with stained glass wall specially designed for the space.

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Marc Chagall lived across two centuries for almost 100 years, he was born in Liozna, Russian Empire  (present day Belarus) in 1887 and died in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France in 1985. Chagall was a multicultural artist: he was born Russian, died French and almost became American somewhen on the middle of his life. Chagall was born in a Jewish family and attended in a Jewish elementary school. At the age of 19 he enrolled into all-Jewish art school where he started his formal art education. After several months he moved to St Petersburg to study at Imperial Society for the Protection of Fine Arts.

Even though Realism was widely popular at that time Chagall developed his own dreamy-like style using bright colours and fairy-tail like shapes. Marc Chagall evolved into a multimedia artist, largely known for his oil paintings. He understood colour like no one else and it is absolute pleasure to look at his artworks. Apart from paintings he was widely successful in making stained glass windows. Although the technique is completely different, the colours of the glass are as bright and vivid as in his paintings. His stained glass windows can be seen across the globe, in the UK, in Germany, in Switzerland, in France, even in UN building.

His artworks are so special because they combine magnificent painting manner with touching subject matter. His art reflected his thoughts and sufferings. As a Jew he experiences persecution firsthand and it reflected on his paintings. They are extremely moving and personal. You can almost cry by looking at them.. I saw people crying in the museum standing in front of the paintings.

This museum experience was very intimate and personal. Each painting is a story and you stand there in front of it and unravel it layer by layer. His artworks are brilliant on so many levels – emotionally, visually and compositionally.

The heart of the museum is a room with only five paintings displayed in panoramic manner and they were placed by Chagall himself. The paintings are from the “The Song of Songs” series. It is an interpretation of book from the Hebrew Bible that celebrates love and sexual desire between a man and a woman. In this series Chagall illustrates the three motifs of the Song of Songs: the musical, sacred and sensual. The choice of red-pink pallet represents deep sweet love but also blood highlighting the violence in Biblical story. There is a bench where you can seat and spend some time tête–à–tête with these paintings. In this room no one talks, it is awfully quiet, everyone is absorbed by the artworks.

This is an incredible museum, full of intimacy and personality. Chagall’s art is full of colours and worry at the same time. It somehow appeals to everyone and viewers relate to it. If you are traveling in Nice do not miss it!

French Riviera

French love their public spaces, large squares, promenades, wide streets, cities are designed for long walks and time outdoors. No matter how large or small cities are they all have stunning art decorating public spaces. Art is in form of installations, sculptures, fountains and elements of architecture. You can find both: contemporary and historic art pieces, so you can find something for every taste.

French Riviera was a popular destination for many artists in 19th and 20th centuries. Seascapes and landscapes are very inspiring and many artist captured them in their works. You can see art everywhere – in museums, in public spaces and even in hotel lobbies. Some hotels have great art collections and their lobbies look like museum halls.

South of France is different from the North, it has much more colours. Buildings are painted in warm pastel colours with contrast window-blinds. Climate is amazing and sun makes everything shine.

In this post I will share photos and thoughts on public art in different cities of French Rivera. Throughput French Riviera architecture is pretty similar and there are some similar art pieces. However each city has its own identity and style.

Nice

Nice is the biggest city in south of France, it has historic centre and modern parts, it has many parks and a promenade alongside the beach. The Massena square is famous for contemporary art pieces – seven luminous human sculptures on poles. This installation was created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa and is called “Conversation in Nice”. Seven figures represent all the continents and how people are communicating and living with each other. Unfortunately I only have day photos but at night these sculptures light up with different bright colours. There are many opinions about these sculptures but they are so integrated in the landscape that it is impossible to imagine Nice without them!

There are many large scale sculptures in Nice, there are very conceptual and surprisingly big. There are less colourful and cutting-edge contemporary sculptures in Nice, or I just have not come across them much.

Airport Nice Cote D’Azure deserves a special mention, there are some interesting artworks inside the airport.. So that is the first thing you see when you arrive or it is the last chance to admire french art before you go.

Cannes

Main promenade along the coast is a perfect place for evening walks: Ferris wheel, ice cream tracks, sweet stands and small stands with souvenirs. There is a square with plenty of improvised art booths by local artists and it looks like an open air art gallery. Diversity of style as and techniques is amazing! I am very picky about abstract art but some of the artworks really caught my eye. Even if you are not shopping for art, it very entertaining to wonder from stand to stand and admire different textures, views and styles. You can also talk to the artists because usually they are presenting everything themselves and occasionally paint or sculpt on the spot.

 

 

For those of you with sweet tooth, french artist Laurence Jenkell strewed French coast with giant candies. These sculptures are crafted in different sizes and from different materials like plexiglass and marble. Candies spread all the way from Monaco to St Tropez, you can see it out in the street or in hotel lobbies, there is one sculpture with French and EU flags as candies wrappings is displayed in Nice airport.

Public Art is not everything that south of France has to offer. French Riviera is filled with art museums. Chagall’s museum and Matisse’s villa museum in Nice, Picasso museum in Antibes, latest Renoir’s home in Cagnes-sur-Mer, national museum of Fernand Leger in Biot and many more. You can easily spend days exploring art.. Cote D’Azur is a magical place with fantastic views, so many artist are still coming there searching for inspiration.

 

Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence is one of the oldest Medieval towns in South of France. It is absolutely charming with narrow streets and breathtaking views. It spreads on top of the hill and surrounded by a wall. The whole region is a bit more than 7 squared kilometres and the village itself is even smaller. We completed full circle in less than an hour..

I have not even tried to go into any art galleries because there are just so many of them. However I took some pictures of the entrances for you to have an idea. Some galleries occupy ground floor, but some have historic stairs leading to lower ground floor. It looks very charming and inviting.

Marc Chagall, who lived in Saint Paul for 20 years, is buried on the local cemetery and people leave small stones in circle on his grave.

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Many restaurants and hotels have incredible art piece hanging on the wall, like Chagall, Picasso, Matisse. Saint Paul de Vence is also called city of artist. In 20th century this small village was the destination for painters, filmmakers and writers.

You can discover many artistic elements while walking in the town, many doors and gates have interesting pattern, some houses are decorated I even saw painted letterbox. Street signs are also artistic and written in a cheeky font, it adds to artistic atmosphere of the village.

Saint Affrique, France

Travelling in France is a great pleasure. You can choose your destination but you never know what to expect on the way – small towns, vineyards and villages. For our trip we decided to go to Saint-Affrique. We admired incredible views, picturesque sceneries and   a feeling of a an endless horizon. To be completely honest I chose this city purely by its name because I love a restaurant African Queen in Cote D’Azur on the seaside of Eze-sur-mere.

Saint-Affrique is a rather big city with its own infrastructure: there is a cinema, tourist centre, college, hospitals and everything else that attributes to a big city. Population is a little over 8,000 people and it spreads over more than 100 squared km.

The architecture is interesting, some buildings have blue elements (like balconies or window shutters) resembling sunny Nice whereas some buildings made from heavy stones resemble medieval times.

The bridge in the heart of the city was build before 1368 and is one of the few medieval bridges left in France.

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Artwise there were two interesting sculptures – Statue De La Liberte and a statue of a boy.

Replicas of Statue of Liberty are all over France, there are more than one in Paris, one in Nice, Bordeaux, Soulac-sur-Mer and other French cities. The statue in Saint-Affrique is not the exact replica of its American sister, but rather interesting interpretation made from metal wires.

The second sculpture, the statue of the boy and it is also made from metal, it is constructed from many pieces of metal things such as wheels, screws, locks etc.

The stature is a rather bold statement, a quote form Victor Hugo:

“I am not one who believes that we can remove the suffering in this world; the sufferance is a divine law, but I am among those who think and affirm that we can destroy misery. Note well, I do not say decrease engine, impair, restrict, confine, I say destroy.

Destroy the misery!

Yes, this is possible.

The legislature and the rulers must be constantly; because, in such matters, as long as possible is not done, the task is not completed”

Apparently there is an elephant made in the same style unfortunately we have not seen it.

Different cafés and shops are decorated with an exterior artwork. It is a beautiful contrast between graffiti decorations and old, even historic, buildings. We also glanced a piece of street art, it is a shame that we did not see more.

It is a very nice city to walk around, explore history and enjoy your day!

Bonus fact: in the end on 20th century there was a prize for French painters, the most talented painters were honored to spend one month in St Affrique in a famous hotel and paint in one of the most beautiful region of France.

Way into the mountains in France

I love travelling through small towns and villages that are not out there in the open but hidden from everybody. I have recently been in a small town called Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert which is home to less than 300 people. It is not far from Lodeve and Montpellier in the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France.

There are many shops with local handcrafted items such as staffed toys, clothes, jewellery and a lot of wine of course. One of many shops is a gallery of contemporary art with paintings by Armelle Bastide d’Izard. She is a french artist with a local media exposure and a list of exhibitions. Her exhibitions were mostly local but Armelle also exhibited in large cities such as Montpellier and art capital of France – in Paris.

Her artworks are bright and colourful, full of life. Some paintings are figurative, depicting surroundings – street views, landscapes, and some are abstract. The weather was nice during our visit and sun filled the room, which made the paint even more vibrant. The artist was there herself and I assumed that she worked on the top floor as some works were shown in the process as in the artist studio.