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Although the studio Matisse rented was part of a series of buildings razed and rebuilt after World War II, a row of brightly painted buildings still lines the street, with busy cafés and shops on the first floor and shuttered apartments above. The buildings themselves serve as billboards, with handpainted claims of the best seafood, freshest produce, and finest wine decorating the multicolored exteriors. From his small balcony, Matisse could see past the castle walls and the pink bell tower, straight out to the sea.
Py’s only restriction was that Matisse was forbidden to enter the house unless the schoolteacher was at home. Py believed it was improper for his unmarried (adult) sisters to have male company unchaperoned. Today, the gardens are open to the public, though few tourists make the climb to take advantage of the shade or the panoramic view of Collioure below. Naudin’s original gardens have long been absorbed into the larger landscape, but exotic and unfamiliar plants still startle and impress those who walk the winding pathways.
Wrote a professor from Paris traveling to Collioure in 1908. “All of a sudden as you emerge on the crest of a hill from a rocky corridor, Collioure! ” Madame Matisse, an ink sketch from 1905. Port d’Avall was the central business district of Collioure during Matisse’s stay. Every morning dozens of fishermen pulled their small boats onto the shore and commenced the ritual of sorting, gutting, and selling their catch. Other boats dumped nets full of anchovies, destined to be stored in barrels of brine for months before going to market.