Chagall Museum

The Musée du Message Biblique Marc-Chagall (Marc Chagall Museum of Biblical Themes) stands out among Nice France museums as one of the most interesting on the French Riviera. It contains seventeen superbly displayed large canvases depicting biblical scenes and themes from the Old Testament in bright, joyous colors. The Chagall Museum also holds sculptures, stained glass windows, mosaics, tapestries, preparatory sketches, engravings, and lithographs from this important 20th-century artist. If you are looking for things to do in Nice the museum is an excellent option. It is on the Boulevard de Cimiez about two miles from the Nice beaches, near the Matisse Museum. Bus #15 has a stop, Musée Chagall, just outside the museum.

Marc Chagall was born in 1887 into a close-knit Jewish family in Belarus, then part of the Russian Empire. He moved to France before the Russian Revolution to be a part of the Paris art scene and went on to become a celebrated French citizen. Chagall paintings in museums around the world often depict biblical scenes or scenes of Belarusian folklore. Many Chagall paintings in museums are deep in spiritual meaning and metaphors influenced by his Jewish upbringing and his sympathy for the Christian message. The Chagall Museum Nice was a natural offshoot of the universal themes found in other Chagall paintings in museums.

Of any Nice France museum, the Chagall Museum has the most harmony between the building and its collection. The rooms are light, white, and cool, with large windows providing a perfect backdrop of outdoor greenery to the bright pinks and reds of the canvases. Chagall himself designed a stained-glass window for the museum and contributed a mosaic. Chagall was a great lover of music, and the building at times echoes the grandeur of an auditorium.

The seventeen vast paintings in the Chagall Museum Nice are arranged into two groups. The first twelve paintings constitute a cycle, each drawing as its subject a narrative episode recited in the Old Testament. The other five paintings illustrate the Song of Songs, not as a homogeneous series, but as five variations on the same theme—love. The artist said of the Chagall Museum Nice that he hoped people would leave having "found a certain peace, a certain religiosity, a feeling of life" and that after seeing the work, viewers would "hear their music and their poetry guided by the heart."

Chagall helped open the museum in 1973 and was active in the museum's life in its early years. Since the death of the painter in 1985, the Chagall Museum Nice has continued to carry the artist's message of universality through special exhibits and by publishing books about Chagall.

Entrance to the Chagall Museum Nice is about $8 to $10 depending on the current exchange rate (less for people aged 18 to 25); entrance to both the permanent and temporary exhibits is a few dollars more. The Chagall Museum is free for those under 18 at all times and for everybody on the first Sunday of every month. Open Wednesday to Monday 10 to 6.

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