Royal Academy: Matisse ‘In The Studio’

From now until November, a must-see exhibition on the impressionist’s life, times and inspiration – in the Sackler Wing…

Matisse designing a head for the decoration of Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence (The Matisse Chapel) in his studio/room in the Hotel Regina, in Nice-Cimiez, c. 1950.

‘Matisse in the Studio’ is the first exhibition to consider how the personal collection of treasured objects of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) were both subject matter and inspiration for his work.  Matisse’s eclectic collection ranged from a Roman torso to African masks, from Chinese porcelain to intricate North African textiles from the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.  He selected these objects primarily for their aesthetic appeal and although not generally rare or even the finest examples of their traditions, they were of profound significance to the artist’s creative process. 

The exhibition explores how Matisse continuously returned to his collection throughout his working life and how the objects were reconsidered, depending on the pictorial setting into which they were placed. In 1951 he said:

I have worked all my life before the same objects…. The object is an actor. A good actor can have a part in ten different plays; an object can play a role in ten different pictures.’.

‘Safrano Roses at the Window’ by Henri Matisse, c. 1925. Oil on canvas, 80 x 65 cm. Private collection.

Matisse’s objects were vital creative stimuli, so much so that he travelled with them, even to temporary residences, and letters to family members would often include requests for objects to be moved from Paris to Nice.

‘Matisse in the Studio’ is arranged around 5 thematic sections. 

The Object as an Actor shows how Matisse reconceived elements of his collection in different works over various periods throughout his career, including ‘Safrano Roses at the Window’.

The Nude primarily focuses on Matisse’s collection of African sculpture and the ways in which these works led him to radical innovations in portraying the human figure. A number of Matisse’s sculptures will be included, such as Two Women’.

The Face explores how he conveyed the character of his sitters without resorting to physical likeness. Many of Matisse’s portraits borrow motifs and ideas from traditions emphasising the simplification of human features, particularly from the African masks that he owned. Paintings by Matisse including The Italian Woman’ will be hung alongside objects such as an African Pende mask.

The Studio as Theatre centres around the Nice interiors from the 1920s – with Matisse increasingly relied on studio props from the Islamic world, such as North African furniture, wall hangings and Middle Eastern metalwork, accentuating the importance of pattern and design in his continuing search for an alternative to the western tradition of imitation.  Highlights by Matisse within this gallery include The Moorish Screen’.

‘The Moorish Screen’, c. 1921. Oil on canvas, 91 x 74 cm. (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins, 1950.

The Language of Signs features Matisse’s late works and the inventive language of simplified signs in his cut-outs. Objects from his collection, including a Chinese calligraphy panel and African kuba textiles, are exhibited alongside the artist’s cut-outs exemplified by ‘Panel with Mask’, illustrating how, in his own words, ‘The briefest possible indication of the character of a thing. A sign.’.

‘Matisse in the Studio’ offers an intimate insight into Matisse’s studio life and artistic practice, exploring how the collage of patterns and rhythms, which he found in the world of objects, played a pivotal role in the development of his masterful vision of colour and form.


Exhibition Details:-

Catalogue – ‘Matisse in the Studio’ is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. Authors include Suzanne Preston Blier, Jack Flam, Claudine Grammont, Hélène Ivanoff and Marie-Thérèse Pulvenis de Seligny.

Dates and Opening Hours – Open to public: Saturday 5 August – Sunday 12 November 2017; 10am – 6pm daily (last admission 5.30pm); Late night opening: Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

Admission – £15.50 full price (£14 without Gift Aid donation); concessions available; children under 16 and Friends of the RA go free.

Tickets – Tickets for Matisse in the Studio are available online at or telephone 020 7300 8090.

Organisation – ‘Matisse in the Studio’ is organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in partnership with the Musée Matisse, Nice. The exhibition is curated by Ann Dumas, Royal Academy of Arts, Helen Burnham, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Ellen McBreen, Associate Professor of Art History, Wheaton College, Massachusetts.


[Credits:;; leftbankartblog;]


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