A unique collection


Danseuse créole, Nice, 1950, gouache-on-paper découpage, coll. Musée Matisse, Nice
© Succession H. Matisse, Photo: François Fernandez

The collection of the Matisse Museum in Nice is unique worldwide as it brings together a collection of artworks and objects from the artist’s personal collection, most of which were directly brought from his studio. Matisse incorporated these objects into numerous works, either as the central subjects of compositions or as incidental elements. They provide invaluable insight on his creative process. The visitor is thus invited to enter into the intimacy of his creation as the museum brings it alive through a journey in which works and objects are in constant dialogue.

For Matisse, the studio was not a neutral space of production, but a source of inspiration and a vital work environment. It was also an exhibition space where he or the potential visitor could enjoy his work. Matisse carefully arranged and decorated his studio, thus creating an ever-changing environment, from his theatrical studio, place Charles Félix where he painted his odalisques, to his flat/studio at the Régina where he created an atmosphere of exotic garden and worked on his cut-outs directly on the walls.

Matisse was an exacting collector. The pieces he kept were selected because they meant something special to him and his work. The 130 items held in the museum’s collection bear witness to the artist’s attachment to the objects he liked to have around him. Beyond their priceless material value, they are like messages addressed to us by Matisse and in turn become part of our own personal collection.

The furniture, textiles and tools which made up what the writer and poet Louis Aragon beautifully called the artist’s “palette of objects” [la palette d’objets] are, for the most part, kept at the Matisse Museum in Nice. In addition to this rare set, the collection comprises objects from different cultures and continent: Africa, Asia and Oceania. There is a moucharabya and a Moorish perfume burner; there are Chinese vases, and a tanka from Tibet. Non-Western cultures were an essential source of inspiration for Matisse.

The collection includes 31 paintings, 454 drawings and prints, 38 cut-outs and 57 sculptures, covering all periods of the artist’s work, as well as more than 400 paper cut-out elements he never used and donated by his family in 2012. The Matisse Museum is the only museum in Europe holding almost all his sculptures. His first painting (Nature morte aux livres, 1890) and a group of early works testify to his beginnings at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts: “I invented myself by first considering my first works,” he confided to Apollinaire in 1907.

Works from his Fauve period, including the emblematic Portrait de Madame Matisse (1905) and Matisse’s portrait by André Derain show how Fauve artists expressed themselves through colour. The museum also keeps a collection of preparatory works, drawings and paintings around La Danse (1930-1933), as well as two major paintings from the 1930s, Tahiti I (1935) and La Verdure (1935-1943). The cut-outs, the last technique developed by the artist, are particularly well represented with pieces such as the Nu bleu (1952), Danseuse Créole (1950), as well as the monumental decorative composition Fleurs et fruits (1952-1953), one of the largest kept in Europe. The museum also boasts a beautiful collection of preparatory works for the Chapelle de Vence, including thirteen of the nineteen maquettes fors chasubles and a number of large brush drawings.

Around this unique collection, the Matisse Museum develops a dynamic program of temporary exhibitions and educational and cultural activities to improve the knowledge of Henri Matisse’s work. The main focus of the museum’s program is the dialogue between cultures and generations that echoes the spirit of Matisse’s artistic research.

Fauteuil rocaille, Vence, 1946, oil on canvas, coll. Musée Matisse, Nice
Venitian pedestal table and chairs, conifer, painted ornamentation, silver plating, gilding, 19th century, coll. Musée Matisse, Nice
© Succession H. Matisse, Photo: Ville de Nice

Chronological landmarks

  • 1869 : Birth in the Cateau-Cambrésis.
  • 1917 : Matisse’s first stay in Nice.
  • 1953 : Matisse donation – major works gifted to the City of Nice.
  • 1954 : Death in Nice.
  • 1960 : Ms. Matisse’s bequest (20 paintings, 5 sculptures, 80 drawings and the large cut-out Fleurs et fruits (1952-1953), 109 objects and pieces of furniture that belonged to the artist).
  • 1960 : Donation from the Matisse family (Marguerite Duthuit, Jean Matisse and Pierre Matisse) – drawings and maquettes for the chapelle de Vence, preparatory studies of La Danse from the Barnes Foundation.
  • 1963 : Inauguration of the Matisse Museum on the first floor of the “Villa des Arènes”.
  • 1963 : Donation from the Matisse family – 6 paintings, 2 cut-outs, 132 engravings, 7 illustrated books as well as objects that belonged to the painter.
  • 1978 : Donation from Mrs Jean Matisse – 52 sculptures and 5 important pieces entrusted to the Matisse Museum in Nice (La Verdure, Tahiti I, Nu bleu IV, L’Acrobate, L’Arbre de vie).
  • 1991 : Donation from Pierre Matisse in lieu of inheritance tax – Femme à l’amphore (1953), La Porte du confessionnal (1950), two bronzes entrusted to the Matisse Museum in Nice.
  • 2006 : Donation of drawings from the Pierre and Maria Gaetana Matisse collection.
  • 2010 : Donation of fabrics and costumes from the Pierre-Noel Matisse and Jacquelyn Miller Matisse collection.
  • 2011 : Gift by Claude and Barbara Duthuit of the ceramic La Piscine.
  • 2011 : Donation of lithographs and engravings from Jacqueline Matisse-Monnier.
  • 2012 : Gift by the Matisse family of 400 paper cut-out elements not used by Henri Matisse.
  • 2013 : Gift of graphic works from the Claude and Barbara Duthuit collection.
  • 2013 : Installation of the ceramic La Piscine, donated by Claude and Barbara Duthuit.
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