In 1919 the French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) took up residence in the Medina in Marrakech (then a French protectorate) with which he fell in love. Majorelle was the son of the Art Nouveau ébéniste of Nancy, Louis Majorelle. Though Majorelle’s gentlemanly orientalist watercolors are largely forgotten today (many are preserved in the villa’s collection), the gardens he created is his creative masterpiece.
In 1922 he purchased a palm grove just outside Marrakech and in 1931 he commissioned architect Paul Sinoir to build him an Art-deco style workshop of astonishing modernity. He set out his primary living space on the first floor and made a vast artist’s studio on the ground floor to paint his huge decorative works.
Fond of botany, he created a botanical garden around his villa structured around a long central pool, with a variety of over 1800 types of cacti, 400 species of palms and other rare varieties of the time. Different environments, planted with lush vegetation in which hundreds of birds nested.
The garden is a living and evolving work of art made up of exotic plants and rare species that he brought back from his travels around the world: cactus, yuccas, water lilies, white water lilies, jasmines, bougainvilleas, palms, coconut trees, banana trees, bamboos…
Embellished with fountains, ponds, water features, ceramic jars, avenues, and pergolas… This bold action revolutionized the way in which gardens were to be viewed.
In 1937 the artist created an ultramarine blue that was both bright and intense: known as blue Majorelle, he used it to paint the walls of his workshop, and then the entire garden transforming it into a living tableau which he opened to the public in 1947.
The power of the blue Majorelle is long lived and permeates the essence of what it means to live and see color in Marrakech.
Following a car accident, Majorelle was repatriated to Paris where he died in 1962. The garden then fell into neglect. In 1980, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent acquired the garden to save it from property developers and to bring it back to life.
Following the death of Yves Saint Laurent in 2008, Pierre Bergé decided to donate the Jardin Majorelle to the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent.
The Garden welcomes over 600,000 visitors each year, tourists and locals alike.
Mr. Frédéric Mitterrand, in the presence of Mr. Pierre Bergé, placed a plaque engraved, “Maison des Illustres” (‘House of Honor’), at the gate of the Villa Oasis, where Mr. Yves Saint Laurent came and worked throughout his life.
Yves Saint Laurent said “A visit to Marrakech was a great shock to me. This city taught me color”.