chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Dominican nun's monastery
by Henri Matisse 31.12.1869 - 03.11.1954
in spirit of cooperation with Sister
Jacques Marie Bourgeois, O.P., 1920 - 2004.


 A brief description..


The chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary of the Dominican sisters in Vence is built and decorated by the French architect and painter Henri Matisse.

Henri (Émile-Benôit) Matisse was born December 31, 1869 in Le Château-Cambrésis, France. After studies in Saint-Quentin and a year of legal studies in Paris, he became a clerk in a law office. He began to sit in on an early-morning drawing class at the local École Quentin-Latour, and, in 1890 he began to paint, at first copying the coloured reproductions in a box of oils his mother had given him. Soon he was decorating the home of his grandparents at Le Château. In 1891 he abandoned law and returned to Paris to become a professional artist.

In 1898 he married a young woman from Toulouse, Amélie Parayre, and left Paris for a year, visiting London, where he studied the paintings of J.M.W. Turner, and started working in Corsica, where he received a lasting impression of Mediterranean sunlight and colour.

Returned to Paris he met Paul Signac and many others and began to attend evening class in sculpture. In 1901 he exhibited for the first time in the juryless, eclectic Salon des Independents and later in other Salons.

During part of 1902 he had to return to Bohain.  He was past 34 when, in June 1904, at Vollard's gallery, he had his first one-man show, and it was a failure. He spent the summer of 1905 with André Derain at Collioure, a small French fishing port on the Mediterranean, near the Spanish border. In the dazzling sunshine he rapidly freed himself from what he called "the tyranny" of Pointillism.

In 1913 he was represented by 13 pictures in the much-discussed, much-lambasted New York Armory Show,  and when the exhibition arrived in Chicago he was given some useful publicity by the burning, happily merely in effigy, of his "Blue Nude."

But middle age, growing affluence, an established international reputation, the disruptions of World War I, and a distaste for public commotion gradually combined to isolate him from the centres of avant-gardism.

He returned to sculpture, which he had neglected for several years, and by 1930 he had completed his fourth and most nearly abstract version of "The Back," a monumental female nude in relief, on which he had been working at intervals since 1909.

He relaxed, as he had always done, by travelling: to Étretat, on the coast of Normandy, in 1921; to Italy in 1925, and to Tahiti, by way of New York City and San Francisco, in 1930. During 1933 he visited Venezia and Padua (Italy), and in Merion, Pa., he completed and installed the final version of his large mural, 'The Dance II' (Barnes Foundation).


The chapel of Our Lady of the Rosary

In 1941, Matisse, who lived most of the year in Nice, developed cancer and underwent surgery. During the long recovery he was particularly helped by a young part-time nurse, Monique Bourgeois (1920-2004), who had answered his ad seeking 'a young and pretty nurse' and who took care of Matisse with great tenderness. Matisse asked her to pose for him, which she did, and several drawings and paintings exist.
All the paintings are listed in Sophie Monneret Matisse. Translation in Dutch, Atrium, Alphen aan den Rijn 1995.ISBN 90-6113-760-8.  Perhaps 543. 544, 545, 548, 549?

In 1943 Monique decided to enter the Dominican monastery in Vence, a nearby hill town to Nice, and she became Sister Jacques-Marie. Matisse eventually bought a home at Vence, not far from the convent where the young nun was stationed. She visited him and told him of the plans the Dominicans had to build a chapel beside the girls' high school which they operated in Vence. She asked Matisse if he would help with the design of the chapel. He had never done anything like it, but Matisse agreed to help, beginning in 1947. Father Marie-Alain Couturier, who collaborated on several artistic Catholic churches after World War II, was also involved in the project.
At the age of 77, Matisse began the greatest project of his life and spent more than 4 years working on the chapel, its architecture, its stained glass windows, its interior furnishings, its murals, and the vestments of the priests.


It is perhaps the greatest ensemble artwork of the 20th century, and certainly the greatest religious commission. While Matisse had been baptized a Catholic, he had not practiced the religion for many years. He designed the chapel as an artistic challenge.
On one of the stained-glass windows Saint Dominic.

              The chapel of our Lady of the Rosary

Henri Matisse died by a heart infarct on 3 November 1954, and was buried on the cemetery of  Cimiez.

Sister Jacques Marie Bourgeois, O.P.
1920 - 2004

The story of the friendship and collaboration of Matisse and Sister Jacques Marie Bourgeois, O.P. is related in her book 'Henri Matisse: La Chapelle de Vence' (ISBN 2909767000) 1992, and in the documentary 'Model for Matisse.' of 2003.  Sister Jacques Marie died in 2004, aged 84.

Sources: Wikipedia and others. 




The Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, France,
decorated by Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (31.12.1869-03.11.1954).

In the postmark at the left.


France 1989. Postmark Vence 07.11.1989





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