Located in Nice, in the Alpes-Maritimes department, the Marc Chagall Museum pays tribute to the work of one of the greatest artists of the 20th century.

Who was Marc Chagall ?

Born in 1887 in the Russian Empire, Marc Chagall is one of the most famous painters who settled in France in the 20th century, along with Pablo Picasso. Although he did not belong to a particular school, Marc Chagall borrowed characteristics from Surrealism and Neo-Primitivism. He also drew his inspiration from Jewish tradition and the life of the shtetl (the name given to the Jewish village in Eastern Europe), as well as from Russian folklore. His artistic journey allows him to elaborate its own symbolism which questions the intimate life of the artist. A painter of genius, Chagall has also tried his hand at engraving, sculpture, stained-glass and enamel painting and even poetry.

Marc Chagall exhibited his works very early throughout Europe. He is deeply marked by his visit to Paris in 1911. He exhibited in particular at the Salon des Indépendants and produced his first masterpieces. His works were also presented in 1914 in Berlin in the Der Sturm gallery, just before the outbreak of the First World War. Between the two wars, he travelled in particular between Russia, Germany and France. The Second World War forced him into exile in the United States. In 1948 he returned to Vence on the French Riviera. His love for southeastern France, where other famous painters such as Pablo Picasso resided, never failed: he ended his days in Saint-Paul-de-Vence in 1985.

The genesis of the museum

André Malraux, in 1969, decided to build a museum to house the series of works Biblical Message donated by Marc Chagall to France. The museum was built in Nice, on land donated by the city, with the active participation of the artist. In 1973 the National Museum Marc Chagall Biblical Message was inaugurated. On the artist’s death, the museum inherited new works as a result of the dation, a procedure which allows the payment of inheritance rights in works of art. The institution changed its name in 2008 to become the Musée national Marc Chagall (March Chagall National Museum). This change followed a major work campaign to modernize the technical installations.

The building was designed by André Hermant, a talented architect who collaborated with Le Corbusier and Auguste Perret. He became interested in museography at a very young age and defended an architecture where function determines form. He designed a place of spirituality, conducive to a climate of serenity and sobriety. The approach was unusual: the place was adapted to pre-existing works that would be presented permanently.

The garden plays an essential role in the Marc Chagall Museum. It welcomes visitors who move around the heart of a Mediterranean flora with olive trees, cypresses, pines, holm oaks and lavender.

The Biblical Message

This painted cycle is certainly the major work of the artist. His relationship with Père Couturier led him to participate in the program of the church of Notre-Dame de Toute Grâce in Assy. He created a large mural mosaic. The Biblical Message was originally intended for the Chapel of Vence, the artist’s town of residence. It would finally give birth to a museum dedicated to him.

The great hall of the Marc Chagall Museum in Nice hosts the 12 paintings illustrating Genesis and Exodus. The plan, articulated on three rhombuses, offers 12 distinct walls so that each work can be highlighted.

The collections of the Museum

The museum’s collections were built up by Marc Chagall himself, who in 1972 offered a collection that included not only the preparatory work for the Biblical Message, but also many other works. This collection contains in particular the gouaches of the Bible of 1931, more than 100 engravings of the Bible with their brass, lithographs, five sculptures and a ceramic. In all, more than 250 works bring the museum’s first collection to life. The collections have been enriched by the artist over the years.

When Marc Chagall died, the museum inherited numerous works deposited by the Musée national d’art moderne (Georges Pompidou Center) which received the dations. Charles Sorlier, Chagall’s lithographer, also contributed to the collections by donating numerous lithographs. Acquisitions, purchases and deposits from the Musée national d’art moderne now enable the public to discover the whole work of the artist.

Exhibitions and events

Exhibitions are regularly organized within the museum. In 2020, for example, the exhibition De Couleur et d’encre. Chagall et les revues d’art (Color and ink. Chagall and art magazines). Many other exhibitions have contributed to the success of the establishment, such as From Chapel to Museum, the creation of the Biblical Message, in 2018, or Le Cantique des Cantiques. La couleur révélée (The Song of Songs. Color Revealed), in 2016.

The auditorium hosts many events, concerts, plays, conferences and symposiums. Movies are also regularly screened, contributing to a particularly rich cultural calendar.

Practical information

  • Visiting time: allow at least 1 hour
  • Opening days: the museum is open six days a week (closed on Tuesday). It is closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25.
  • Schedule: from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from November to April, and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. from May to October.
  • Address: Avenue Docteur Ménard 06000 Nice
  • Access: the museum is located on the line number 5 (“Chagall Museum” stop). A parking lot is available for cars.
  • Others: a bookstore, a store and a refreshment bar are available to visitors.
  • Labels: “Musée national de France”, “Qualité Tourisme”
  • Website: https://musees-nationaux-alpesmaritimes.fr/chagall/

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