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Nice: In Search of Raoul Dufy

September 17, 2015


Anyone who knows Raoul Dufy’s (1877-1953) joyous paintings of Nice won’t be surprised to hear that when in Nice and walking along the Promenade des Anglais, they frequently come to mind. There is the beautiful curve of the Baie des Angers (Bay of Angels) that he captured, the tall palm trees that line the edge of the Promenade and, of course, the glorious blue of the Mediterranean. A little sadly the gorgeous blue has been a bit lacking in the days I’ve been here due to cloudy weather but I’m hopeful that with the full sun predicted tomorrow and Saturday I may yet see the Mediterranean at its best. Of course it’s never really the deep and bright blue seen in Dufy’s paintings but it’s pretty wonderful and was his inspiration.

Thunderstorms and rain were predicted for today (though fortunately neither came) so I decided this morning that a trip to the Musee des Beaux Arts in search of some Dufy paintings would be just the thing to do as I might need to be based indoors. I consulted my map and decided to walk. It wasn’t far. I had to go in the opposite direction to my usual route, away from Vieux Nice and back towards the airport, past the famous Hotel Negresco.


The Promenade des Anglais is 4km long and the airport lies at one end. When you look out to sea you can see the planes take off: when you land it’s almost like landing on water. I cut up from the seafront by Negresco and onto the Rue de France. The route eventually took me into a residential area and finally I found the Musee which is housed in a magnificent building.


It cost €10 to get in and I was directed upstairs to the Dufy exhibition (where of course I couldn’t take photos). It’s quite a small exhibition with only a small number of his bright and joyful paintings of Nice, but there were drawings and some of his textiles and ceramics too so I enjoyed what I saw. There was some explanation in English and I learned that his favourite thing to paint – the casino at the end of the pier – was destroyed in 1944 when the Germans bombed the pier. Dufy continued to paint it from memory. He apparently painted a lot from memory and that made sense because when I walked round to the port yesterday and looked back from Quai Rauba Capeu expecting my Dufy view, the perspective was wrong. Dufy’s bay is smaller than the real thing. But that doesn’t take anything away from his glorious paintings that so wonderfully capture the colour and spirit of Nice. Weirdly, the Musee sell no postcards or prints of Dufy’s works so I’ll have to settle for memory too!


When I came out and made my way back down to the seafront, instead of a thunderstorm I found the weather had improved and the sun was shining. People were settling on the beach and there were some wonderful sailing boats in full sail in the distance. I stopped at a seafront cafe, ordered a late morning coffee and stopped to people and boat watch for a while.

At about 6.00 I set off from the hotel to make my way to Vieux Nice – about a mile and 20 minutes away. It’s a 5-minute walk from the hotel down to the seafront and then a straightforward walk along the promenade. On the map it looks as if it would be quicker to cut through the back streets but I’m not sure it is, as there’s so much weaving in and out of winding streets and alleyways to do. Anyway, it’s so much nicer walking by the sea!


At regular intervals you find rows of Nice’s iconic blue chairs that are free for anyone to sit on and either look out to sea or inwards towards life on and beyond the promenade. There are also white pergolas with white benches in the gaps. They’re really comfortable and I spent some time in the afternoon sitting quietly on one.


Just before I turned off into Vieux Nice and Cours Saleya, I saw two buskers – playing cello and violin. It was delightful – I wondered if they were music students – and I stopped to listen for a while.


The sky was clearing and blue was appearing through the earlier clouds. There was a hint of pink promising a good day tomorrow. It was beginning to look more like Dufy’s Baie des Anges. I went through an archway into Cours Saleya. The daytime market stalls had been stacked away making room for the restaurants to spill out and put up more tables for diners.


I made my way through to Place Rossetti and up Rue Rossetti to a nice bar I found yesterday. It’s quieter than the ones a little further down in or near the square.


I ordered a prosecco (€3.50) as an aperitif, which comes with complimentary tortilla chips and dip.


It was a nice place to sit for a while and sip my drink. Then I went in search of supper. The better restaurants tend not to open until 7.00 or even 7.30. I found a great place but that can have its own post next time. Meanwhile down on the promenade the sun was setting on a lovely day.


The photographers amongst you might be interested to know I used my iPhone 6 camera for every photo in this post. I was discussing cameras with one of the Canadian Kathys on Tuesday at supper. She’s an enthusiastic and serious photographer and was surprised by the little Canon digital camera I use. I said I was too lazy to use an SLR, that the little camera was very convenient and also I like to be discreet in restaurants if I’m photographing food. I know the quality isn’t as great as some bloggers I know who use serious cameras but I guess although I like taking photos, I’m just not serious enough. When I decide to blog about something on th spur of the moment and have no camera with me, the iPhone is a good substitute. It doesn’t however do dark and dim lighting well. Once in the restaurant this evening I changed back to my Canon digital.

  1. What a wonderful post of your day in Nice. Have fun and enjoy,

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