As I was in the North of France with my family, we went to visit the Matisse museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis – his birth place.
The collection, exhibited in chronological order, counts 170 works. It is interesting to see the evolution of his work throughout his career. You can view some of the works on the website of the museum (link at the end of this post).
During the first years, when he was learning the craft in the art studio of Gustave Moreau, Matisse’s palette was still full of earth colours and he was also copying still life paintings by Chardin.
Matisse then explored Divisionism, after meeting Signac in Saint-Tropez in 1904. The painting was slowly created by the juxtaposition of coloured dots and the final effect relied on optical mixing of colours, when the painting is look at from a distance. But Matisse found the technique too burdensome and only kept from it the pure colours.
Another room showed works from the Fauvism period, a movement he created with a group of painters in 1905: Marquet, Manguin, Camoin, Puy, Derain, Vlaminck, Braque, Dufy, Friez, Valtat, Van Dongen and Rouault. The trademark of the group was bright and pure colours used to express sentiments rather than depict reality.
Then came the paintings done with flat colours and simplified lines. Matisse was always looking for a sensation of calm and balance in his work. A feature of the artist’s work is how he uses black: to create lines but also in planes, as any other colours. In his writings and interviews, he made the point that black was a colour. He even went as far as declaring that he was using black as a "colour of light rather than a colour of obscurity".
Towards the end of his life, Matisse developed a unique technique with gouache cut-outs to create his works. The museum has some fine examples from this period.
Matisse also worked on the Chapelle in Vence (South of France) that he created for the Dominican sisters between 1948 and 1951. The museum shows several models and works specially created for this project.
On the ground floor, the museum has a large selection of drawings and engravings by Matisse.
Another aspect of Matisse’s work is the sculptures he carved. The original plasters of the series Nus de Dos are in the museum. And the first one is also in the garden as a bronze sculpture (A full series of the four sculptures casted in bronze is part of the Centre Pompidou collection in Paris).
The Matisse museum also hosts the Herbin Collection (a geometrical abstract artist born in the North of France) as well as the Tériade Collection (he published a number of artists’ books, including Jazz by Matisse).
Musée départemental Matisse
59360 Le Cateau-Cambrésis