Our final port of call on our Nice trip was the National Chagall Museum. It contains seventeen superbly displayed large canvases depicting biblical scenes and themes from the Old Testament in bright, joyous colours. The Chagall Museum also holds sculptures, stained glass windows, mosaics, tapestries, preparatory sketches, engravings, and lithographs by the artist.
Marc Chagall was born in 1887 into a Jewish family in Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. He moved to France before the Russian Revolution to be a part of the Paris art scene and went on to become a French citizen. Chagall paintings often depict biblical scenes or scenes of Belarusian folklore and are rich in spiritual meaning and metaphors influenced by his Jewish upbringing and his sympathy for the Christian message. The Chagall Museum was designed to highlight these themes.
There is a beautiful harmony between the building and its collection. The rooms are light, white, and cool, with large windows providing a perfect backdrop of outdoor greenery to the bright pinks and reds of the canvases. Chagall himself designed a stained-glass window for the museum and contributed a mosaic.
I was asleep but my heart was awake. A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my darling, My dove, my perfect one! For my head is drenched with dew, My locks with the damp of the night.
Song of Solomon 5:2
The seventeen vast paintings in the Chagall Museum Nice are arranged into two groups. The first twelve paintings constitute a cycle, each drawing as its subject a narrative episode recited in the Old Testament. The other five paintings illustrate the Song of Songs, not as a homogeneous series, but as five variations on the same theme of love.
The artist said of the Chagall Museum that he hoped people would leave having “found a certain peace, a certain religiosity, a feeling of life” and that after seeing the work, viewers would “hear their music and their poetry guided by the heart.”
Chagall helped open the museum in 1973 and was active in the museum’s life in its early years. Since the death of the painter in 1985, the Chagall Museum Nice has continued to carry the artist’s message of universality through special exhibits and by publishing books about Chagall.
Afterwards, we sat in Museum garden and had lunch.