The Chagall Museum
“When Matisse dies,” Pablo Picasso remarked in the 1950s, “Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.”
The Musee Marc Chagall was created with the cooperation of the artist himself, who not only curated the exhibit, but installed the immense mosaic, designed the stained glass for the concert hall, specified the layout of the gardens, and chose the exact placement of each of his works in the museum. It is the largest public collection of his work.
The museum’s core is a series of large paintings illustrating the first two chapters of the Bible, Genesis and Exodus; and Solomon’s Song of Songs or Canticles, which is a biblical meditation on sexual, spiritual and sensual love.
How to get there:
Take bus Bus #15 Rimiez/St-George, which you can catch behind the Nice Etoile Shopping Center, behind Galeries Lafayette, or on rue Geoffredo. Once the bus is well up the hill and you have a great city view to your left, you know your stop is getting close. After you pass the ‘Rolland Garros’ stop, push the red button and get off at the ‘Musee Chagall’ stop. The museum is via the road on your left. The museum is on Avenue Docteur Menard, which is just off Boulevard de Cimiez.
Address: 36 Avenue Dr Ménard, Cimiez, 04 93 53 87 20
Hours: 10am to 6pm from May-October, 10am-5pm in winter. Closed on Tuesdays, plus May 1, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Tickets: 9€ for adults, but only 7€ on Sundays, and only 7€ for young adults 18 to 25-years-old.
Free for all children under 18, as well as for those under 26-years-old that live in the European Union.
Free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month.
Passes: The Chagall museum is not one of the municipal museums, so it is not included in the blue Pass Musee, nor the 7-day municipal museum card good for 14 museums and galleries in Nice. However the Chagall museum is included in the French Riviera Pass. Click here for more info on the various museum passes.
Audioguides: The Chagall Museum is the only museum in Nice with audioguides, which are free and highly recommended, and available in English, German, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Chinese and French.
Guided Tours: Guided tours are available for 4.50€ per person, but unfortunately are only in French. The timing varies from either a 3:30pm or 4pm start, and the tours are offered on certain Saturday or Sundays. Here is the latest schedule.
Concerts: The museum holds occasional classical and jazz concerts in the gorgeous circular stained-glass auditorium, click on the museum website for more information.
THE LIFE OF CHAGALL
Chagall was born into Russian poverty (his father was a herring merchant) and he went on to live a life encompassing nearly 100 years. He lived the Russian revolution, arrived in Paris not speaking a word of French, returned to his village to marry his fiancé and was then trapped in Russia during WWI. He returned to Paris to become one of the Modernist masters, but even this couldn’t save him as a Jew during WWII and his family had to be smuggled out of France to America. During this time his Jewish hometown was decimated from a population of over 200,000 to just 118 survivors.
Despite this, his work is infused with joy and optimism, whimsical dreamlike symbols, and always evoking his humble childhood and faith.
CHAGALL ON THE RIVIERA
Chagall lived his final years in Saint Paul de Vence from 1966-1985, where he was constantly in motion on new projects, even up to the day he died at age 97 (his tomb can be found in the Saint Paul de Vence cemetery). His works can be found up and down the coast …and sometimes crop up in surprising places, like at the winery Sainte Roseline where a Chagall mosaic covers a wall in the chapel, or in the back of L’Ane Rouge restaurant in the Nice Port, where you can find a red ceramic donkey, a gift to his stubborn red-haired mistress, Anne, who he nicknamed L’Ane Rouge, and who then gave the name to her restaurant.
In the Steps of Chagall tours in English are available from the St Paul de Vence tourist office upon request: Tel. 04 93 32 86 95 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. They charge 7€ a person if they have a group, otherwise they’ll do a private tour for 14€ a person, 2 person minimum.
WHILE YOU’RE UP ON CIMIEZ…
Continue walking up beautiful Boulevard de Cimiez for 15-minute uphill (or hop back on bus 15 and stay on for 6 more stops) and you’ll come to the equally fabulous Matisse Museum, plus other great sites to see at the Cimiez gardens: Roman Bath ruins, a Roman coliseum, a 2000-year-old olive grove, a Franciscan Monastery with fabulous Italian-style gardens (open to the public), and a small but interesting Franciscan Friar museum in the church.
- Back up to main Art Museums page
Photo credits: Paintings in Chagall museum by Antostudio licensed under creative commons.