Cantini Museum

The Cantini Museum in Marseille focuses on the so-called “modern” period, presenting works that span the entire first part of the 20th century, from the 1900s to the 1980s. Art lovers will discover major works of Pointillism, Fauvism, Cubism, abstract art, Dadaism, Art Deco or Purism, but also Surrealism. The Cantini museum has one of the richest collections in France for this period. Paintings also stand alongside sculptures and a collection of drawings and photographs that are remarkable in many ways.

Jules Cantini, benefactor and patron

The Cantini Museum is housed in an old mansion, built in 1694 by the Compagnie du Cap Nègre, a company that traded mainly with Africa. It changed owners several times before being acquired by Jules Cantini. This rich marble worker, patron and benefactor, donated it to the town in 1916 to house a museum that still bears his name today. The elegance and refinement of its architecture are a real showcase for masterpieces of the 20th century.

Marseille owes a lot to Jules Cantini. In 1906, he offered the fountain of Place Castellane, which can still be admired on the eponymous square. When he died in 1916, he left to the city and the hospitals of Marseille some thirty buildings, including the private mansion that now houses the museum.

From Fauvism to Cubism

The Cantini Museum offers different sequences around the greatest names of Fauvism. The collections include masterpieces such as Académie d’Homme by Henri Matisse, La Pinède à Cassis by André Derain, Paysage Bleu, Portrait d’Eva Blum and Lola à l’ombrelle jaune by Charles Camoin, and other equally remarkable paintings by artists such as Emile Othon Friesz and Alfred Lombard.

Cubism is also in the spotlight, with an emphasis on some of the earliest experiments in the field. Raoul Dufy is represented by several works: La Terrasse à l’Estaque, Usine à l’Estaque, Paysage de l’Estaque, three paintings dating from 1908, offer a strong view of this former fishing village that has now become a picturesque district of Marseille. Albert Gleizes is also present at the Cantini Museum, notably through L’Écolier, a painting dating from 1924.

Purism and post-cubism trends are also part of the museum’s collections, with works by Amédée Ozenfant, Fernand Léger, Le Corbusier, Jenny-Laure Garcin and Jacques Villon. Visitors can, for example, discover Les Hommes et la Machine, a 1932 painting by Jenny-Laure Garcin, or Nature Morte au Couteau by Fernand Léger.

Numerous works testify to the fascination of these artists for the landscapes of Provence and the French Riviera. The bright light of southeastern France enhances the colors and inspires the greatest.

Rendezvous with Surrealism

The great names of this artistic movement came to Marseille between 1940 and 1941 to flee barbarism, on their way to an enforced exile in the United States. The link between Marseille and Surrealism, although it was forged during a dark period, remains no less strong.

The Cantini Museum thus welcomes works by Joan Miró into its collections. Visitors can contemplate Monument aux Oiseaux, a work by Marx Ernst, or Antille, and Le Terrier, two works by André Masson painted during and just after the Second World War. During your visit, you will also admire Les Têtes, a painting by Jacques Hérold dating from 1939, Contra Vosotros Asesinos de Palomas by Roberto Matta, and some twenty paintings by Victor Brauner, including L’Emblème de L’emblémateur, painted in 1964.

A panorama of 20th-century art

The Cantini Museum in Marseille also owns various works by the Gutai group, an artistic group from Japan that was active between 1955 and 1960 and close to the French informal movement thanks to the work of the critic Michel Tapié.

The following years are also represented through works that marked the “materialist” experience of many artists. Jean Dubuffet is presented to visitors through Vénus du Trottoir and Brouette en Surplomb I. You will also be able to discover the work of other famous painters such as Jean-Paul Riopelle, Antoni Tàpies or Antonio Saura, and travel with the abstract landscapes, in large formats, of great names such as Hans Hartung, Mario Prassinos, Olivier Debré, Pierre Tal-Coat or Raoul Ubac.

Other major artists of the 20th century are also mentioned. The museum also has drawings by Pablo Picasso, the Portrait of Diego by Alberto Giacometti, and Self-Portrait by Francis Bacon.

Exhibitions and events

Exhibitions regularly renew the interest of the visitors, discovering a movement or an artist. From November 2019 to March 2020, the exhibition Man Ray and Fashion focused on the artist’s work on fashion photography. It made the visitors wonder about the links that exist between an artistic production that is self-sufficient, and productions submitted to a commercial order.

Other exhibitions have dealt with precursory trends, such as De la Scène au Tableau, which between 2009 and 2010 focused on the influence of theater on painting, presenting artists such as Delacroix, Degas, Gustave Moreau and Toulouse-Lautrec to the public.

Culture for children

The label Famille Plus testifies to the commitments made by the Cantini Museum to facilitate the reception of families and children. The small lounge offers a discovery area for children around the permanent collection. This area is freely accessible from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm, for children accompanied by an adult.

Informations pratiques

  • Visiting time: at least 1 or 2 hours
  • Opening days: open six days a week (closed on Monday, except Easter Monday and Whit Monday). Closed on January 1, May 1, November 1 and 11, December 25 and 26.
  • Schedule: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday
  • Address: 19 rue Grignan, 13006 Marseille
  • Access: The museum is located 500 meters from the Old Port, close to the subway (Estrangin station – M1 line).
  • Accessibility: accessible to people with reduced mobility
  • Website:

Museums in Bouches-du-Rhône

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