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Matisse On My Mind

Updated: May 7, 2021

Jazz. As I dreamily awoke this morning, I heard the last strains of a beautiful jazz piece called Rhythm (at least, that's the name in my dream). My first thought was Matisse. Even early on in his career, he understood rhythm. You can see it here in his 1910 masterpiece, The Dance. After his struggle with cancer began in 1941, he turned to sculpting with scissors to create colored gouache cut-outs, which he published in 1947 with the title Jazz.

Jazz, that distinctly American creation which found a home in Europe, was a great inspiration that in turn inspired others. Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter of geometric compostions in primary colors, only listened to jazz when he worked. I do, too, though I have yet to make a grand contribution to the world of art - sigh - but I love Mondrian, and I love Matisse. When I lived on the Côte d'Azur in Antibes, I'd sometimes go to Nice and visit the places related to Matisse. I'd look down the long concourse that is the Cours Saleya, beyond Le Marché aux fleurs (the flower market) and see that wonderful yellow building at the far eastern end. Matisse lived there from 1921 to 1938, and I am sure he enjoyed the view of the activity on the Cours Saleya, while being a bit above it all.

I think he liked being above it all. A trip up into the hills of Cimiex would take me by the Regina, formerly an elegant Victorian-era hotel, now an elegant building of apartments, where Matisse had two from 1938 until his death in 1954. While I admired the rolling green lawn and the elegant white building, the real prize in Cimiex is in Les Arènes, where one finds the remains of a Roman arena (still used for Nice's summer jazz festival), a Byzantine style cathedral (Notre Dame de Cimiex), a park where all the lanes and walkways bear the names of jazz musicians, and the glorious, deep pink Matisse Museum with its treasure of Jazz Cut Outs. I've seen it ranked as #57 out 143 things to do in Nice, but I put it in the top 10. In particular, I found that experiencing the Cut Outs was heightened by a stroll through the park along those lanes named for jazz greats. You can literally stand at the corner of Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, and that is certainly inspiring. In fact I wrote a story with that title in my book Upon the Bay of Angels . ( I leave a link here

Recently Matisse has come into my life when I, too, became inspired by the maiden masks done by the Punu people of Gabon in West Africa. Both Matisse and his rival/friend Pablo Picasso were inspired by this different way of seeing. Picasso developed Analytic Cubism, and Matisse did portraits like this one of his wife:

I am fascinated to see the cross-cultural influences that unfortunately sometimes are missed as time passes. Inspiration comes in many forms and in turn engenders so many others. The main thing is to keep being inspired and to keep creating.

For more on Matisse, I leave you this link:

For my inspiration, I drew an interpretation of a maiden mask,

originally carved to show one of their beautiful women. I call my

drawing of her, Bella. For more of my African-inspired pieces, go to the

Africa: Human/Nature page on this website.

I would love to hear your art experiences, so please share them by logging in on the Home page and commenting in the blog.

So until the next inspiration, just remember

Art is a forever project.

Note: Images of Matisse's work are from

public domain sources.

For more information on Nice, please see Allison Coe has the latest info.

For more on Marjorie Vernelle, see the author page at

She also has an engaging art history blog that talks of painting and wine on

© Marjorie Vernelle 2019

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Marjorie Vernelle
Marjorie Vernelle
Feb 17, 2019

So glad you liked it.


I seemed to be traveling while reading your story; that was wonderful. Thank you Marjorie. Rita

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