Having arrived at the Nice airport late at night, when we woke up in our friend's house in Antibes it was pretty thrilling to look out the window and see where we were.
The first thing we did was walk along the water to the local farmers market. It's in the old part of town, and takes place every morning.
We'd heard about something made there called "Socca", a chick pea flour pancake, and tried one for breakfast...just delicious.
It was a beautiful day and the air felt fresh and salty...
Above photos: Old Town, Antibes
Above: Outside the walls of the Picasso Museum the cactus is set off by the blue of the Mediterranean. Although the vegetation in this area is much like it is at home in Los Angeles, the sense of the history of the area, and the texture of the old walls makes everything much more evocative. Below is a photo of the museum taken in 1957 by Marianne Greenwood. The spot in the photo above is behind the sea wall on the left.
In 1946 Picasso was looking for a space to create large works. The curator, Dor de la Souchere of the Musee D'Antibes offered him the opportunity to use one of the large rooms in the Chateau Grimaldi as his studio. The chateau was functioning as an antiquities museum at the time, focusing on the archeological finds, from the area. He worked there steadily for two months, and when he left, decided to leave much of the work he'd made. In the next few years he came back frequently to create more work, and finally donated many pieces to what would eventually become the Musee Picasso.
Above: The front of the Picasso Museum as it is today. (via us.franceguide.com)
When I thought about going to the South of France I looked forward mostly to seeing it through the lens of Matisse, and was pleasantly surprised at how much I could relate to the work Picasso created while he was here. The artwork has a joyfulness and a lightness about it. He explored the themes of Greek mythology, with Fauns, Centaurs, and Satyrs as his subjects. The archeological treasures that were there, and the rich historical past, may have helped to inspire the paintings.
Above: Picasso "Le joie de vivre", 1946. Francoise Gilot is pictured dancing in the center. You can see her below, with the painting, in this photo from 1946 by Michel Sima.
Above: Picasso with his close friend Jaime Sabartes in front of paintings of fauns that Jaime was the model for. Photo, 1946 , by Michel Sima.
Above: From the museum catalog, two of the paintings of Fauns from September, 1946.
Above: Picasso shown painting "Satyre, faune et centaure au trident" in a room that was later to become an exhibition space in the museum. Photo, 1946, by Michel Sima.
Above: "Satyre, faune et centaure au trident", 1946, shown hanging in the museum, 1957. Photo by Marianne Greenwood.
Above: "Cabri couche", 1947-1948 Picasso created a good deal of ceramic work while he stayed here. He worked with ceramicists in Vallauris to make the forms he'd designed, and then he glazed them. The integration of the animal form with the ceramic shape really embodies the spirit of the animal. Cabri means young goat, or kid, and goats were a favorite subject.
"Chouette", 1947-1948. A chouette is an owl.
There is a sense of the pleasures of good food from the ocean in many of the pieces done here...
"Composition a la sole et au rouget", 1947. This platter is utterly simple and honed down to it's essence.
"Vase avec feuillage et trois oursins", October 1946 (Vase with foliage and three urchins)
Above: The view from one of the galleries, which had been one of the rooms in which Picasso painted.
Above: Front and back of book "Picasso in Antibes", 1960. The painting in the studio on the back is done directly on the plaster, "Les clefs d'Antibes", or the "Keys of Antibes", 1946.
There's a beautiful detail you see on almost all the buildings around Antibes...half round tiles set below the roof line to create a scalloped row.
Sometimes just one row of tiles, sometimes two, and sometimes three. It creates a wonderful pattern. The building above uses the tile in another way as well, above the stonework.
Above you can see the double row use of scalloped tiles below the roof.
Above: Here a single row of tiles are used below a tiled awning to keep the rain off the doorway.
Breakfast the next morning was a crepe citron and a cafe latte at this beach stand...may have been my favorite meal of all!
Back at the house I found an old copy of Cote Sud about Antibes and environs...The idea of the Riviera is as much an ephemeral idea as a place, and reading this issue here in Antibes enhanced the whole experience.
The issue included a great article about Picasso's time at Villa La Californie, in Cannes, in 1957.
Above: My husband came back from a walk with a great collection of glass and tiles from the ocean.
We left Antibes after a couple of days to stay with friends in Grasse. It's about half an hour away, up in the hills. Grasse is famous for the perfumeries there, and for being the source of most of the scents used in many perfumes.
Above: An incredible view of the town of Grasse with the Mediterranean in the background.
First thing Monday morning we went to the flea market in Old Nice, in the Cours Saleya.
The apartment building at the far end of this plaza, 1 place Charles Felix, is where Matisse lived from 1921 to 1943, after which he moved to Vence, a nearby hill town. He left Nice at that time because of the war and ill health, wanting to find a quiet place to work. Many of my favorite paintings were made in his studio here in Nice.
Above: Matisse shown walking on the 5th floor balcony of his apartment in the building shown above.
Above: I love the matte ivory finish contrasted with the glossy yellow interior of this pitcher I found at the market.
Above: We found this book here, by Picasso's lifelong friend and frequent subject, Jaime Sabartes, about their times together.
After the market we explored Old Nice. It's hard to believe that it's real...it looks so much like a set of an old French town, but it's the real thing, what all those old sets were based on. The laundry hanging from the windows isn't just for effect!
The colors are fantastic. In 1832, when Nice was part of the territory of the King of Sardinia-Piedmont, his "Ornamentation Council" developed very specific color guidelines. Those colors form the basis for the palette most often used to this day.
Above: The motorcycles and the garbage bins in the courtyard remind you that people really live here.
Above: Beautiful pastel colored facades
I'd love to see the rooms inside the building above...
The narrow spaces between buildings create shade, and an air circulation pattern that helps the hot air rise, keeping the buildings cool. The shutters are also part of the ventilation system, being designed to angle in different directions to enhance the breeze.
Above: A perfect French cafe
All around Old Nice is a much more modern city, the 5th largest in France.
Above: The harbor, just to the east of Old Nice. This does look as though it could have been taken in the 60s, but it was just this summer.
In the afternoon we went to the Matisse Museum...a place I've wanted to go for many years.
Wonderful to see in person the Bergere chair in so many of his paintings. I never knew it was actually red and white. You can see it in the two paintings below.
Above: "Jeune fille en rose dans une interieur", 1942
Above: "Interieur aux barres de soleil", 1942
Above: Lydia Delectorskaya was the model in this painting, "Purple robe and anenomes", 1937. She was hired in 1933 originally as a nurse for Matisse's wife, Amelie, but took over much of the managerial work of running the studio that his wife had been taking care of. A couple of years later Matisse started to use her as the model for many of his paintings and drawings, and she became his muse. Amelie, felt there was more to the relationship than a creative collaboration, and she missed the working partnership they'd had as well. She divorced him as a result in 1939. It is unclear as to whether there ever was a romantic relationship between Matisse and Lydia, and they always denied it. She stayed with him until the end of his life. The show at the Matisse Museum this summer focused on her.
Above: Lydia Delectorskaya assisting in the studio.
What was shown of the permanent collection was also a pleasure to see...here are a couple of paintings that were on view.
Above: "Nature mortes aux grenades", 1947
Above: "La vague"' 1952
After the Matisse Museum we drove to St. Paul de Vence, a small town in the hills near Nice.
St. Paul de Vence has too many tourist galleries, but we managed to find some quiet streets off the main ones that were unspoiled and really lovely.
We met our friends for a drink at La Colombe d'Or, in St. Paul de Vence. This is a place with an illustrious history...many well known artists, such as Picasso, Leger, Braques, Chagall, Miro, and Calder, spent a great deal of time at this inn and restaurant, becoming friends with the owners, and trading artwork for meals and lodging.
Calder made the mobile at the end of the pool
Above: Some of the Terra Cotta tiles on the roof are glazed in a variety of bright colors
Tuesday in the late afternoon we took a train from Nice to Paris.
We stayed at the Hotel Verneuil, on Rue De Verneuil, near the Musee d'Orsay. We've stayed here before, and though the rooms are small they're really pretty,and it's well located.
A tiny elevator or these stairs take you up to the room.
Above: Each room is decorated differently...this one has an Indian character.
Above: The window onto Rue Verneuil
We only had one full day in Paris, so we saw as much as we could...
A cafe au lait to start the day....
We walked by 19 Quai St. Michel, where Matisse lived and painted on and off, from 1892-1921.
Above: Shakespeare and Company is a legendary bookstore. Started in 1951 by American George Whitman, he created what he called "a socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore". He allowed travelers, young writers, poets, and artists to stay at the store in exchange for help cleaning the shop, building shelves and selling books. The store included 13 beds, as well as places to write.
Whitman claims as many as 40,000 people have slept in the shop over the years. the store is named after and in honor of an earlier store which closed during World War II, and was owned by Sylvia Beach. She bequeathed to him many of her books, as well as rights to the name, Shakespeare and company. It is now being run by Whitman's daughter, Sylvia Whitman, and young authors continue to live and write there, earning their keep with part time work at the store. There is something magical and mysterious about the place. Above a doorway it says "be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise", and this is an ideal made very real here.
Above: Merci, at 111 Blvd. Beaumarchais, near the Marais, is a concept store, started by Marie-France and Bernard Cohen of children's clothing company Bonpoint. It is an emporium selling housewares, clothing, books, etc., where all the net proceeds go to charity.
Above: I like these enameled tin dishes...
And this faux door...it's actually wallpaper. They have other styles too.
Back across the Seine to the Left Bank...
Above: At Thomas Fritsch, 6, Rue de Seine, are these two wonderful magazine holders by Mathieu Mategot (1910-2001).
Sennelier, 3 Quai Voltaire, is a fantastic art supply store. It's been here since 1887, and I imagine Matisse walking here for his supplies, just a short distance from his apartment on Quai St. Michel.
What a selection of colors!
Above: This painting is a mystery...we saw it walking along Quai Voltaire, and I don't know where, or who did it, but I like it too much to leave out. Please let me know if you have any information!
We had a glass of wine at La Palette at the end of the day...a very pleasant cafe at 43 Rue de Seine. Fun to know that people such as Picasso, Jim Morrison, and Ernest Hemimgway enjoyed La Palette in prior days.
On our last morning a coffee at Le Comptoir Des St. Peres on Rue Jacob.
Above: Appealing tile work on their floor
Poilane, the famous boulangerie, reputed to have the best bread in Paris, was our last treat before leaving France. This is some kind of apple pastry. What a lovely taste to have before heading home!