Northern France Tourism : official website

View of the museum’s interior with ‘Window in Tahiti’ by Matisse

Matisse - a man from the North

"What led Henri Matisse, the son of a Picardy grain merchant, to imagine such a palette of flamboyant colour? The common thread is the region’s textile tradition, which would always influence his artistic output. Born into a long line of weavers in 1869, this fabric collector and designer was to be inspired by the radiant designs of his childhood. Follow in his footsteps and explore his native town of Le Cateau-Cambrésis, overlooked by an imposing belfry. Come and visit the palace which houses France's third largest collection of the artist’s work. In 1952, Matisse, who had travelled so far from his native land, wished to see a museum established here. Thanks to art, Le Cambrésis, previously completely unknown, is now recognised throughout the world."

Le Cateau-Cambrésis, in the courtyard of the Matisse museum
  • Le Cateau-Cambrésis, in the courtyard of the Matisse museum
  • © Eric LEBRUN - LightMotiv

A chronological tour through the works

You are taken on a chronological tour, covering two floors, which helps to understand the stages that brought Matisse to his artistic maturity. His initial subdued palette, shown in ‘Breton Weaver’ (1895), brightens gradually as a result of his trips to Corsica, Collioure and Nice. And then there is his visit to Tahiti in 1930. “A decisive trip”, says Patrice Deparpe, a curator at the museum. “He took endless photos, of which one is this view from his hotel bedroom window.” It shows a view of the harbour and volcanoes in Moorea. Much later, his memories resurfaced and created this fascinating piece ‘Window in Tahiti’, which is one of the major works of the collection, alongside ‘Polynesia, the Sky’.

The exhibition hall in the Cateau-Cambrésis Matisse museum
  • Matisse's pictorial evolution is displayed through each room in turn.
  • © Eric LEBRUN - LightMotiv
It had to be a palace to house France's third largest collection of the artist’s work

Three collections in one museum

In 2002, two modern wings were added to the 18th century architecture of Le Palais Fénélon, designed by architects Emmanuelle and Laurent Beaudouin. The extension was necessary to house some new collections. In addition to the Matisse collection, there are donations from Auguste Herbin, the master of geometric abstract art, (also a native of Le Cambrésis), and Alice Tériade, the wife of the famous art editor. This last donation enriched the museum with a further 39 modern masterpieces. (Chagall, Giacometti, etc.) Dazzled by colour, you will leave the palace with that ‘sun in your gut’ that Picasso envied so much in his fellow artist...

A stained-glass window at Le Cateau-Cambrésis
  • Herbin founded the Abstraction Creation group - an innovative artistic movement.
  • © Eric LEBRUN - LightMotiv
The paper cut-outs

In 2013, Matisse’s family offered the museum 443 works in cut-out paper. They are an irreplaceable testimony to his artistic exploration and the central theme of a new exhibition hall.

The display cabinet of drawings

A superb room with subdued lighting which showcases Matisse's mastery of drawing. 64 drawings and engravings chosen by the artist himself and hung with his advice.

The Tériade dining room

Tériade, an informed art enthusiast from Greece, received his artistic friends in a dining room with decorations signed by Matisse himself! It has been faithfully reconstructed at the museum.

Matisse - the painter and doting grandfather

At the end of the tour, look up at the ceiling in the 8th room and find the faces of Matisse’s grandchildren drawn there. It is the original ceiling from a former palace in Nice!

Inside the museum with a window on Tahiti
  • Inside the museum with a window on Tahiti
  • © Eric LEBRUN -LightMotiv

‘Window in Tahiti’ - a masterpiece

Large areas of colour with strictly defined edges - the forerunner to the paper cut-outs.