La Chapelle du Rosaire near Vence
On the outskirts of Vence lies the Chapelle du Rosaire, better known as the Matisse Chapel. This unique building was designed and constructed by Matisse himself as a token of gratitude for Monique Bourgeois, a nun who had nursed him through illness. Matisse spent the better part of 1941 in Nice in the south of France after undergoing extensive surgery for his cancer. During his recovery period, Bourgeois and Matisse developed a close relationship, and Bourgeois became a model for the ailing artist. His gift to her was the Chapelle du Rosaire. Its exceptional style gracefully unifies artistic and spiritual elements and is a dazzling example of Matisse’s genius. Between 1947 and 1951 the artist decorated the chapel in the Reductivist style of the era. Gleaming white walls and floors are contrasted by glass windows, shimmering in yellow, blue and green colors. Matisse himself referred to his achievement as his “masterpiece,” and “the result of a lifetime devoted to the search for truth.” It is an artistic accomplishment born out of affection rather than religious purposes.