Famous Painters in Nice, Episode 357

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Categories: Arts & Architecture, Provence

This episode features our frequent and very popular guest Elyse Rivin. If you enjoy her episodes, please consider supporting her on Patreon.

There were always at least a few dozen famous painters in Nice on the French Riviera in the 1900s. Today Annie Sargent and Elyse Rivin talk about three of them in some detail: Matisse, Chagall and Yves Klein.

Why did they love Provence so much? Was it because painters and photographers are always in search of great light? Whatever the reason, painting on the French Riviera and Provence in general was really popular.

Click on Show Notes below to read Elyse's complete historical outline. Visit our Instagram account to see Annie's photos of Chagall, Matisse, and the MAMAC.

Useful link: the price of a taxi between the airport and Paris city center.

The color of the episode player above is International Klein blue that we discuss in the episode.

Our Favorite Museums in Nice

The Contemporary Art Museum and Villa Massena are both in the city center of Nice not far from the beach. Further up the hill you'll find the Chagall Museum and the Matisse Museum. You can go to the last two on bus line #33. The Matisse Museum is smaller in size than the Chagall, but both are wonderful. The MAMAC (Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain) is the biggest of the three and you shouuld go if only for the view from the top!

Famous Painters in Nice and Other Cities

Artists get associated with cities either because they lived there or because had a relationship with the city. Here are some associations we often make:

  • Van Gogh = Arles
  • Picasso = Antibes and Vallauris
  • Derain and Signac = Marseille and Estaques
  • Nice = Matisse, Chagall and Klein

The School of Nice

Some artists who all worked in Nice shared several characteristics such that we can say that there was an identifiable  "school of Nice". Later there was a second School of Nice. You can see a lot of examples of these painters at the Villa Massena.


Matisse was born in Normandy but spend half of his life living in the Regina hotel in Nice, later he moved into an apartment, and later still into Villa des Arènes where he spent the rest of his life. This is where the Matisse Museum is today.


Chagall was born in Russia in a Jewish family where figurative painting is forbidden. But his family made an exception and allowed him to go to art school because he was so clearly gifted starting at a young age. Chagall worked in Paris for a while then went back to Russia for many years. Then in 1922 he moved back to France and asked to become a French citizen in the 1930s.

He spent WW2 in the United States because France was not safe for him as a Jew. He came back to France in 1948 and moved to Saint Paul de Vence where he finished his life and where he is buried.

Chagall made stained-glass windows all over France and this was a second carrer for him. Book by Isaac B Singer about the art of Marc Chagall

French Tip of the Week

The expression is yakafokon which is short for “Y a qu’à, faut qu’on”.


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Discussed in this Episode

  • The School of Nice
  • Matisse
  • Chagall
  • Musée Matisse in Nice
  • Musée National Marc Chagall
  • Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain de Nice (MAMAC)
  • Musée Massena
  • The French expression "yakafokon"
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If you enjoyed this episode, you should also listen to related episode(s):

Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law by Marc Chagall: Famous Painters in Nice episode
Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law by Marc Chagall on display at the Chaggal Museum in Nice.
Read more about this episode
Show Notes 

Categories: Arts & Architecture, Provence