A unique collection


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

The Matisse Museum’s collection in Nice is unique worldwide as it brings together a collection of Matisse’s works but also objects which he had in his possession at various times of his life, and which he incorporated into numerous works, either as the central subjects of compositions or as incidental elements. The visitor is thus invited to inhabit the world of the artist’s creation and have an intimate experience of his creative process.

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 moucharaby 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 production, as well as more than 400 shapes for his cut-outs not used by Matisse in his compositions, donated by the family in 2012. We can mention some remarkable sets. The Matisse Museum is the only one in Europe to keep almost all of the artist’s sculpted work, highlighting a practice he has associated with painting throughout his career. Around his first painting in 1890, a group of works testifies to his beginnings and his career at the School of Fine Arts: “I invented myself by first considering my first works,” he confided to Apollinaire in 1907.

All the works dating from the Fauvism period show how he begins to express himself through colour, including the emblematic “Portrait de Madame Matisse” from 1905 and her portrait by André Derain. The museum also keeps a collection of preparatory works, drawings and paintings around “La Danse” – Barnes (1930-1933), as well as two major compositions from the 1930s, “Tahiti I” (1935) and “La Verdure” (1935-1943). The cut-outs, the last technique developed by the artist, is particularly well represented with pieces such as the “Nu bleu” (1952), “Danseuse Créole” (1950), as well as the large composition “Fleurs et fruits” (1952-1953), one of the largest kept in Europe. The beautiful collection of preparatory works for the Vence Chapel is to be added, including thirteen of the nineteen models of chasubles and large brush drawings.

Around this unique collection, the Matisse Museum develops a dynamic program of temporary exhibitions, media events, and educational and cultural activities with the aim of fostering knowledge of Henri Matisse’s work. The main focus of the scheduled programme initiated in 2017 is based on the principle of dialogue between cultures and generations that echoes the spirit of Matisse’s artistic research.

Fauteuil rocaille, Vence, 1946, huile sur toile, coll. Musée Matisse, Nice
Guéridon et fauteuils vénitiens, conifère, décor peint, argenture vernie, dorure, 19ème siècle, coll. Musée Matisse, Nice
© Succession H. Matisse, Photo: Ville de Nice

Chronological landmarks

  • 1869 : Henri Matisse’s birth at the Cateau-Cambrésis
  • 1917 : Matisse’s first stay in Nice
  • 1953 : Henri Matisse donated several of his major works to the City of Nice.
  • 1954 : disappearance of Henri Matisse
  • 1960 : Ms. Matisse’s bequest, twenty paintings, five sculptures, eighty drawings and the large cut gouache “Fleurs et Fruits” (1952-1953), one hundred and nine objects and furniture that belonged to the artist.
  • 1960 : donation of the artist’s heirs, Marguerite Duthuit, Jean Matisse and Pierre Matisse, drawings and models of ornaments for the chapel of Vence, analysis of “La Danse” from the Barnes Foundation.
  • 1963 : inauguration of the Matisse Museum on the first floor of the “Villa des Arènes”.
  • 1963 : another donation of the artist’s heirs, six paintings, two carved gouaches, one hundred and thirty-two engravings, seven illustrated books as well as objects that belonged to the painter.
  • 1978 : donation of Mrs. Jean Matisse to the State, fifty-two sculptures, and five important pieces deposited at the Matisse Museum in Nice (“La Verdure”, “Tahiti I”, “Nu bleu IV”, “L’Acrobate”, “L’Arbre de vie”).
  • 1991 : Donation of Pierre Matisse to the State, “Femme à l’amphore” (1953), “La Porte du confessionnal” (1950), two bronzes, deposited at the Matisse Museum in Nice.
  • 2006 : donation of drawings from the Pierre and Maria Gaetana Matisse collection.
  • 2010 : donated fabrics and costumes from the collection of Pierre-Noel Matisse and Jacquelyn Miller Matisse.
  • 2011 : gift by Claude and Barbara Duthuit of the ceramics of “La Piscine”.
  • 2011 : donation of lithographs and workshop engravings by Jacqueline Matisse-Monnier.
  • 2012 : gift of the artist’s heirs to a set of more than four hundred cut-outs elements.
  • 2013 : gift of graphic works from the Claude and Barbara Duthuit collection.
  • 2013 : installation of the huge ceramic “La Piscine”, donated by Claude and Barbara Duthuit.
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