Villas - Riviera’s icons

2021-10-11
Villa Noailles, Cap moderne, Fondation Maeght

Under the sun of Arles with Vincent Van Gogh, in the Estaque limestone mountains with Cézanne… Modernism was born in the light, the Riviera asserting itself throughout the 20th century as one of its most famous fertile ground. The villa Noailles, the Villa E-1027 and the Fondation Maeght stand as the iconic gems of this artistic effervescence. Built between 1923 and 1964 according to rationalist and Corbusian principles (reinforced concrete, rooftop terrace…), they were designed as total works of art, housing design, site-specific frescoes, or artists’ gardens. The greatest artists have left their mark in these exceptional places. A friend of the Noailles and Maeght patrons, Alberto Giacometti stayed in two of them. Eileen Grey occupied them with her furniture, Picasso with his works… Genuine icons, these villas trace the history of art and modern architecture, but they also relate family, love or friendship stories between artists and patrons: they tell us about the intimate Riviera.

La Villa Noailles

1923, at the heart of the Roaring Twenties. Close to the avant-gardes (including Jean Cocteau) and keen on radical aesthetics, the Viscount de Noailles and his wife Marie-Laure finally decided. They commissioned architect Robert Mallet-Stevens for a summer villa of a very new kind. Functionality, light, and refinement: the structure was born two years later and against the grain of the Art Deco style of that time, it gives pride to terraces and gardens; including the famous cubist garden by Gabriel Guévrékian. The place houses with greatness convertible and/or integrated into the architecture furniture: the creations by Eileen Gray, Charlotte Perriand, Marcel Breuer… Located on the hill overlooking the city of Hyères, this comfortable villa then became a genuine setting for avant-gardes thanks to the couple’s generosity and open-mindedness. Dalí, Giacometti, Picasso, Man Ray, Cocteau stayed there. Buñuel even shot his first surrealist movie there in 1929, The Mysteries of the Château de Dé.

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La Villa Noailles, Montée de Noailles, 83400 Hyères

La Villa E-1027 d'Eileen Gray

In the early 1920s in Paris, they fell in love and decided to celebrate their romance with the creation of a villa. The woman, Eileen Gray, was then famous for her metal tube furniture and Jean Badovici for having created the magazine L'Architecture Vivante. He was the one convincing his designer partner to do architecture. In 1926, ground was broken in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. Built on stilts and offering a breathtaking view over the Mediterranean, the villa looks like a boat run aground. Eileen Gray gave a more sensual style to the modernist forms she regarded as rather cold. She also concieved the interior furnishings and imbued the walls with her humour by writing catchphrases like “Come in slowly” or “Laughing is forbidden”. In 1996, the place was sadly abandonned, flooded with rain, squatted, the furniture scattered… Fortunately, a restoration campaign was launched starting from 1999. Architects Claudia Devaux, Burkhardt Rukschcio and Renaud Barrès investigated and succeeded to restore the villa basing on accounts and archives.

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La Villa E-1027 d'Eileen Gray, Sentier Massolin, 06190 Roquebrune-Cap-Martin

La Fondation Maeght

Before it became one of the most important modern art foundations, the Maeght’s property in Saint-Paul-de-Vence was already hosting many artists. In Saint-Paul-de-Vence, at the Provencal farmhouse in Saint Bernard, Braque, Miro or Prévert visited their friends “Aimé and Guiguite”, famous art dealers exhibiting Chagall, Calder, Giacometti, among others. The place as we know it today – with its renowned pagoda roofs – emerged in 1964, on an idea by George Braque and André Malraux, when the Maeght had just lost their son… The grieving couple entrusted the building of their new foundation to the leading figure of Spanish modernism Josep Lluís Sert. This one conceived a mini city consisting of five villas, studios, a church… Many artists therefore stayed in this idyllic setting with its surrounding woods, its patio, its pool decorated by Braque, its Giacometti Courtyard, its Miró Labyrinth…

Here, art, nature, and architecture fuse.

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Fondation Maeght, 623 chemin des Gardettes, 06570 Saint-Paul-de-Vence