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Matisse Museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis



The Matisse Museum, Le Cateau-Cambrésis

©Mary Anne Evans

Matisse Museum Overview:

Housed in the former arch-bishop's Fénelon Palace in the small town of Le Cateau-Cambrésis where Henri Matisse was born, the Matisse Museum is one of France’s relatively unknown but formidable collections of art. It is unique in that Henri Matisse chose what he wanted to give to the museum and stipulated how he wanted the works arranged.

Subsequent donations and acquisitions have rounded out the initial picture of how Matisse developed and changed as an artist. The works of Auguste Herbin, born in 1882 in a village near Le Cateau, and the magazines and books published by the editor-poet, Tériade, add two more collections.

Matisse Museum Location and Contact Information:

Palais Fénelon
59360 Le Cateau-Cambrésis
Tel: 00 33 (0)3 27 84 64 50
Website (in French)

Getting to Le Cateau-Cambrésis:

By road:
From Paris, take the Paris-Cambrai motorway (A1 then A2 – 170 kilometers) then take the RN43 from Cambrai to Le Cateau-Cambrésis (22 kilometers.)
From Lille or Brussels, take the motorways to Valenciennes. Leave at the Le Cateau-Cambrésis exit then take the D955 (30 kilometers from Valenciennes, total 90 kilometers from Lille.)

By train:
Le Cateau-Cambrésis is on the main Paris to Brussels line and accessible by train. Book on www.raileurope.com

Matisse Museum Opening Hours:

Opening Hours:
The museum is open every day except Tuesdays, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The Museum is closed January 1st, November 1st, December 25th.

Matisse Museum Admission:

General Admission:

Adults 4.5 Euros, 7 Euros for Matisse galleries. 3 Euros on presentation of an SNCF rail ticket to Le Cateau.

Free admission for under 18s and on every first Sunday of the month.

Consult the official website for current ticket prices.

Matisse Museum Guides & Workshops:

Audio guides:

Audio guides are free with ticket price and cover different aspects from A visit with Matisse to one on the works of Herbin, all in English. There is also an audio guide for visually impaired visitors and visit guides or ‘info terminals’ for those with hearing problems.

For children:

There is the audio guide The Matisse story for children.


There are visual arts workshops, family and children’s workshops.

Matisse Museum Facilities:

Matisse Museum Accessibility:

The Matisse Museum is accessible for disabled visitors. Enter via the Fénelon park side.

Museum Shop:

There is a small shop selling books, postcards and some gift items around the museum and the collections.

Museum Cafe:

Either take a snack in the small cafe or take your drinks and sandwiches outside to eat on the lawns.

The Museum's Collections:

The museum is divided into three permanent collections and is built so that you move easily from one collection to the next. The Matisse collection takes you through the artist’s artistic life, starting with the early paintings he produced in his home town of Bohain in Picardy. The town was built around the textile industry and he grew up with rich textural decorative designs and arabesque shapes that so influenced his work

The museum is compact enough to give you a proper appreciation of how Matisse came to make those vibrant, colorful, sweeping images in paintings, drawings, sculptures and inspiring paper cut-outs.

Highlights include Tahiti II; Vigne; Nu rose, interieur rouge; and the original plaster casts of his series of four Backs

The Tériade Collection

Tériade was a hugely important editor-poet-publisher who founded the surrealist magazine Minotaure and later Verve. He published 26 editions between 1937 and 1960, commissioning the most exceptional writers (Jean-Paul Sartre, Gide, Valéry and Malraux) and artists from Matisse, Chagall and Picasso to Bonnard and Braque to work on the editions.

Between 1943 and 1975 he produced 27 books with artists like Chagall, Matisse, Le Corbusier, Picasso and Giacometti. It was an extraordinary series, with text and illustration being equally important. Works of art in their own right, they were given to the museum in 2000 by Teriade’s widow, Alice.

The Herbin Collection

Auguste Herbin was born in 1882 near Le Cateau and grew up in the town. He trained at the art school in Lille and supported himself by working for a left-wing newspaper. He lived in Paris, discovering the works of Van Gogh and Cézanne, then became influenced by the Fauvists and Cubism.

After world war I he began producing what he called his ‘monumental objects’ – relief works in wood or furniture in a cubist style. There’s an astonishing piano of 1925 and polychrome reliefs. But most striking of all is a huge stained glass window, a copy of one made for a primary school, made of very large surfaces of a single color.

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