Fortuitously, my recent trip to France was bookended by visits to exhibitions that showcased Matisse at the beginning and at the end of his career. Towards the end of the first day I visited the Musee Matisse in his home town of Le Cateau-Cambresis, which houses an astonishing collection of his work, including striking examples from his younger years. Then, on my way back through London, I went to Tate Modern to see Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, an unparalleled gathering of 130 of the joyous, exuberant works made by Matisse in the last decade of his life: a period which he regarded as a second life, a gift of time. A period in which he turned to painting with scissors. Continue reading “Painting with scissors: Matisse’s cut-outs at Tate Modern”
Late in the afternoon of the first day of my trip to WW1 sites in Flanders and the Somme, I was in the little village of Ors where Wilfred Owen is buried and where his platoon spent their final hours before being mown down by German machine gun fire. The nearest town is Le Cateau-Cambresis and, since it is the place where Matisse was born, and since it has a museum devoted to Matisse, I had to go. Continue reading “Henri Matisse: celebrated in his home town”
Back in Nice again, we headed up to Cimiez to wander in the tranquil gardens of the monastery and, of course, revisit the Matisse Museum. First, though, there was something I wanted to see that I had overlooked on previous visits: the artist’s last resting place. Continue reading “Matisse: his last resting place and resurrection”
The Aimé and Marguerite Maeght Foundation, opened in 1964, is a wonderful modern art museum in beautifully-designed buildings in peaceful and meditative surroundings at St. Paul de Vence in the hills above Nice.
Aimé Maeght was a renowned art dealer and publisher living in Paris. It was the cubist artist, Georges Braque who suggested that the couple built an artistic foundation. In 1960 they visited Miro’s studio in Palma, Mallorca, and took an instant liking to the design, which was by Josep-Lluis Sert, a Catalan Modernist who came to prominence in the 1930s.
The Maeghts wanted a contemporary, functional design to house the art collection, and as nature lovers, they also wanted the foundation to be integrated into a large, Mediterranean garden. Thus Sert had to adapt a functional building to its natural landscape, “installing a museum inside Nature” as he put it. His overall design was a series of inter-connected, one- to three- storey buildings that respected the slope of the land and which were set comfortably amongst the pine trees. The different roof shapes, levels of rooms and terraces, and the combination of materials (concrete and pink hand-thrown bricks) give variety for the eye.
Sert tamed and harnessed the Mediterranean light with quadrantal cylinder windows. Their parabolic curve traps and transmits the even and constant light directly on to the exhibition walls at the height of the paintings. In addition, several walls open to the outdoors, overlooking the sculpture gardens, terraces, tiled pools and woods.
Artists worked in close collaboration with the architect, creating some large works that integrate naturally with the building and the environment. There is a Giacometti courtyard, a ceramic and sculptural labyrinth by Miro (top), wall mosaics by Chagall, and stained-glass windows by Braque. The Giacometti Courtyard contains slender bronze figures such as l’Homme qui Marche 1 (1960).