The work of Henri Matisse (1860-1954) glows with the colors of the Mediterranean Sea and inspires with the sheer joie de vivre of his paintings. He came to Nice in 1916 and settled in leafy Cimiez in the hills above Nice for the rest of his life, living at the nearby Regina building at 71 bd de Cimiez.
The museum itself is housed in a magnificent 17th-century Genoese villa, painted in the ochre shades of Sienna. You walk through the rooms seeing how his work evolved from his early more studied and relatively somber art through the influence of Cézanne, his work as a founder of Fauvism to the wonderful 'cut-outs' which he made after he became bedridden later in his life. There are sculptures, photographs of the artist and sketches and models for his Chapelle du Rosaire in nearby Vence.
Practical informationMusee Matisse
Address: 164 av des Arènes de Cimiez, Nice
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 53 40 53
Where to EatCôte Sud, Nice
In 1966, Marc Chagall gave 17 large canvases from his Biblical Messages series which included 5 versions of The Song of Songs to form the heart of the museum A second gift in 1972 brought all the preparatory sketches, so you see the complete work from conception to finish. More items were added, making this the largest collection of his work.
Practical InformationMusee Marc Chagall
Address: Av. du Dr-Menard, Cimiez
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 53 87 20
Where to EatCôte Sud, Nice
This is one of my favourite small museums in one of my favourite towns on the coast. The Château Grimaldi which Picasso used as a studio in 1946, stands on the ramparts overlooking the sea. In the distance you see the mega yachts of the mega rich while the sea breaks against the rocks below. The windows give a pearly light to the wonderful collection of Picasso’s ceramics and the drawings, paintings and prints that fill the small stone-walled rooms.
The museum also has some surprising and stunning works by Nicolas de Stael from the last two years of his brief life, plus paintings by Max Ernst, Fernand Léger, and Juan Mirò.
Practical informationMusee Picasso
Address: Chateau Grimaldi, Antibes
Tel.: 00 33 04 92 90 54 20/26
Visit the website
Where to EatLes Vieux Murs
Address: 25 Promenade Amiral-de-Grasse
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 34 06 73
Right on the ramparts and a couple of minutes walk from the Picasso Museum, with a terrace, seasonal menu and good reputation.
4. Musée Nationale Fernand Léger, Biot
Just south east of the charming hilltop village of Biot, the museum is set in a somber, imposing building designed by the Russian architect, Andrei Svetchine in 1960. Especially built to house a huge collection of works by Fernand Léger, the first thing you see is the enormous ceramic mosaic that decorates the eastern façade.
Inside the collections consists of over 450 works, from sketches to paintings, sculptures to mosaics. Arranged strictly chronological, it shows Léger's progression from Impressionist to Cubism and his extraordinary later works with their geometric, robot-like style.
Practical InformationMusee National Fernand Leger
Address: Chemin du Val-de-Pome
Tel.: 00 33 04 92 91 50 30
Where to EatLa Buvette du Jardin, open from April to the end of October, in the garden of the museum is a good bet, with great salads, savoury tarts, sandwiches and patisseries. Le Jarrier
Address: 30 passage Bourgade, Biot
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 65 11 68
A well-established restaurant taken over by Laurent Broussier in 2009 who brings classic training to Provençal dishes.
This is an exception to the other museums here; it is the collection of Aime and Marguerite Maeght, renowned Cannes art dealers who also made friends with artists like Chagall and Matisse. So the collection is a mix, but it is among the best small museums in the world.
It's beautifully laid out, surrounded by leafy gardens, with light flooding inside, to illuminate works like the slender figures of Alberto Giacometti, the colorful paintings of Chagall, pastoral scenes from Bonnard who lived in Provence for the last 22 years of his life, and works from Joan Miro, Calder and international contemporary artists.
Practical InformationFondation Maeght
623, chemin des Gardettes
Tel.: 00 33 (0)4 93 32 81 63
6. Musée Renoir, Haut-de-Cagnes
In Haut-de-Cagnes, just above the main part of Cagnes-sur-Mer, this is one of the most peaceful and low key museums in the area. At Renoir's house, now the museum, You're greeted by the sound of birdsong among the olive, orange and lemon trees that shade the garden where his great bronze sculpture, Venus Victrix stands. Renoir came to the south of France when he began to suffer from arthritis and lived here from 1903 until his death in 1919.
Inside the house, the furniture and personal objects are left as they were when Renoir lived here. When you step into the atelier, the feeling of the artist's presence is so great that you expect to see him at his easel.
The museum has 11 of his paintings from the final period of his life as well as works by his friends Pierre Bonnard and Raoul Dufy.
Practical informationMusee Renoir
Address: 19 chemin des Collettes, Haut-de-Cagnes
Tel.: 00 33 04 93 20 61 07
Visit the website
Where to eatJosy-Jo
2 rue Planastel, Haut-de-Cagnes
Tel: 00 33 04 93 20 68 76
Attractive restaurant simply decorated with stone walls and terrace, known for grills and Provençal dishes.