Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The Missing Matisse
Nazi planes were bombing Paris the day a lifelong, more personal war began for Pierre. It was the day he lost his identity.
Born into a famous family, Pierre Matisse grew up immersed in the art world of Paris and the French Riviera, spending time with some of the most famous artists of the twentieth century. The man he knew as his grandfather, legendary artist Henri Matisse, encouraged Pierre from a young age, creating a strong desire in him to become a great artist in his own right.
Being a Matisse was an important part of young Pierre's identity. So he was crushed and bewildered when, at the outbreak of WWII, that identity was suddenly snatched from him with no explanation.
So began Pierre's lifelong search to solve the mystery of who he really was, a quest that forms the intriguing backdrop to this memoir of a fascinating and adventurous life on three continents. Spanning the insider art world of 1930s Paris, the battles of WWII, the occupation of France by the Nazis, Pierre's involvement with the French resistance, his post-war work restoring art and historical monuments, and his eventual decision to create a new life in North America, The Missing Matisse is a story of intrigue, faith, and drama as Pierre journeys to discover the truth before it's too late.
Pierre Henri Matisse was born in Paris in 1928. Brought up as the grandson of Henri Matisse, Pierre spent his childhood among some of the most famous artists of the twentieth century, including Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
During WWII, Pierre and his father, Jean Matisse, were heavily involved in French underground activities, wanted by the Nazis for their efforts in aiding the British spies and saboteurs. When the war ended, Pierre worked in the restoration of the art and historical monuments in France that were damaged by the war.
Now a citizen of the United States, Pierre is best known as "The American Matisse, the Artist of Freedom and Love." He is devoted to children's causes and has given or created pieces to help organizations such as Project Hope, The American Red Cross, numerous children's hospitals, missions organizations, and rescue programs around the world.
Pierre and his wife, Jeanne, live in Florida."
My thoughts: This is an excellent memoir by the grandson of Henri Matisse! I love how he brings to life the dark days of Germany invading France during WWII and how it personally affected him and his family. This book is a rare glimpse into that time. It is also a wonderful look at what it was like to grow up in a family that was so talented when it came to art. I love the lessons that his grandpa and parents passed on to Pierre that influenced the artist he is today. This book is an interesting and enjoyable read. The subjects span a wide variety, so most everyone should enjoy this book!
I received this book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.
Q & A with
Pierre Henri Matisse
The Missing Matisse
Pierre Henri Matisse
Was born in Paris in 1928. Brought up as the grandson of
Henri Matisse, Pierre spent his childhood among some of the most famous artists of
the century, including Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. During WWII, Pierre and his
father, Jean Matisse, were heav
ily involved in French underground activities, wanted
by the Nazis for their efforts in aiding the British spies and saboteurs. When the war
ended, Pierre worked in the restoration of the art and historical monuments damaged
by the war in France. Now a cit
izen of the United States, he is an artist who has
given or created commissioned pieces to help organizations such as Project Hope,
The American Red Cross, numerous children’s hospitals, and many others.
What prompted you to write this book at this time
in your life?
My parents did not tell me much about their lives. I want my children to know about mine
What is your hope for this book?
I love books, and
I have loved to read all my life. Books are where I learned what I know
other people’s life experiences. In hard times
books have been my best friends, my source of
inspiration. I want my book to be an inspiration,
about survival no matter what,
how I relied on
courage, faith, hope and love.
and where were you born?
I was born in Paris,
on the first of February,
Tell us about
spending with your grandfather, Henri Matisse. Did you know then that he
was a famous artist?
I did not spend much time with him, because he was immersed in his art and living in Nice on the
French Riviera, while
I was living in Paris.
As a child,
I had no idea my grandfather was famous
until the day
he came to visit us in Paris and
me to a jazz concert starring
I love music, especially jazz. After the concert Grandfather Matisse
told me that Django was one
of his friends, and asked
me if I wanted to meet
I answered with
an enthusiastic 'yes'
that day on,
I knew that my grandfather Henri had to be very famous if he could access famous
people and call them his friend.
You are an artis
t in your own right, can you tell us
about the color lesson you received
from your grandfather
when you were
My mother who
graduated from the
Beaux Arts art school in Paris
had tried to teach
me everything about colors to no avail. I could not figure out
her complicated color
when we visited
Nice during the summer of 1939
she arranged a color lesson for me with
Matisse. My idea about colors was that
the more color
tubes an artist owns
So I came to my grandfather with a big box full of color tubes I had
purchased with my own money that I had saved
. Obviously I was going to impress him with my
I had even memorized the fancy names so I could speak color jargon like a pro.
Grandfather welcomed me into
his studio with a charcoal in his hand and asked me to put my big
box on a table.
the box taking out tubes of vermillion, ultramarine blue,
yellow, and white. As he handed me these four colors
, he said
“From now on, paint with these
rouge, bleu, jaune,
et blanc. I
and forbid you
to buy any
other colors than these four. Now go and
. Convey my love to your mother and father.” End
of the color lesson. On my way back,
I thought that Grandfather
was losing it. How could
talented artist like me possibly turn out masterpieces with these ridiculous four
I decided to give
it a try to prove to him that I could
paint good stuff no matter what.
my painting skills improved drastically. Grandfather Matisse used to say,
“I paint with simple
To this day
I follow his advice.
Can you talk about your memories of WWII and the time you spent with your father, Jean
Matisse, in the French Underground?
My father was involved with British intelligence,
assisting British spies. On more than one
set out in a small boat and
rendezvoused with a British submarine off
on the French Riviera. We brought British spies ashore and hid
them in our home.
the winter of 1943
was an apprentice illustrator at
a print shop. On the side,
printing business and made
false papers, passes,
fake IDs. On D
, I was living
and when the Nazis began to be pushed back to the Allies, I had encounters with
that should have gotten me killed.
It is a miracle
that we all survived the war.
you were twelve
old, your mother said you needed to stop answering to the
name Matisse and to go by the name Leroy instead. Then she sent you away to
school. Can you discuss the impact that had on you? Did you feel abandoned?
I did not blame my m
other or anybody else. It was
war time, and
being fought in
. My parents had a delicate problem t
o navigate and t
hey did the
best they could
under the cir
As for me
was devastated when it happened. Because I had always
been an adventurous boy who was often getting into trouble, I thought that I had been kicked
of the family for bad conduct.
, I cried. Then I pulled myself together
and asked God for
courage. From that day on
, I felt I was a real man, on my own.
I knew I would have to figure out
life by myself.
When and why did you legally change your name back to Matisse?
I did not change my name
I reclaimed the name I had been known by until
I was twelve years
old. In 1966, with my wife, Jeanne’s encouragement, I began pursuing the documents
to reclaim my name. Official French school documents
from1939 verified that my name is Renee
Pierre Louis Henri Matisse. The paperwork was presented to legal authorities in France, Canada,
and the United States, and accepted.
Why are you questioning who your father is? Who do you believe is your real father?
My mother told me when I was twelve years old that my last name is Leroy. Later, my
grandmother Leroy tells me that I am not her grandson; I am a Matisse. At the end of the war,
the man who is supposedly my father
confirms what his
mother had told me.
“You are not my son” he tells me. What would you do? So who is my father? I want to
know...and DNA will reveal the answer.
Why do you think your mother
was abandoned by the Matisse family at the time of her
The facts were that
my mother, after twenty years of marriage to Jean Matisse, had left him
months before she died.
The Matisse family was rich and when
any of them were
the American Hospital, the best hospital in Paris at the time.
was not sent
a common room with no privacy, in
the most abject conditions.
screaming in agony from unbearable pain.
I loved my mother dearly and am thankful I was able to
be with her in her dying moments. As for the Matisse family’s decision to abandon her, how do
you think I feel about that?
You were recently baptized in a bathtub by Willie Robertson of
did you meet him, and what prompted you to
become baptized later in life?
wife, Jeanne, and I became friends with the Robertson’s after Jeanne became seriously ill.
television show made us laugh and we watched it during her recuperation. Eventually, our
families connected and I was invited to give an art lesson on a Duck
Dynasty episode. While
Jeanne and I were in Louisiana, we had dinner at Willie and Korie’s home, and out of the blue,
Willie asked me if I had been baptized. I told him I was not sure. Willie offered to baptize me for
real -right then and there –in his bath tub
I agreed and had a redneck baptism. It has made a
significant difference in my relationship with God and my life in general.
What has your faith taught you about forgiveness and star
Resentment, holding grudges, hate, are negative
and guilt for past mistakes that you
can do nothing about will destroy and poison your soul. I am a positive person who is a problem
I believe in finding the good in everything and focusing on it.
Many times, I was forced to
think of alternative solutions to stay alive in the situation I was in. In those difficult circumstances,
it was time to pray for courage.
Tell us about your other interests as a pilot, a photographer, music lover
, art history buff
Sailing a boat, flying a small plane, photography, music,
actually, all of life is about
creating and the word
describes both the process and the end product.
History and art history
are linked together,
they are a blueprint to our precious heritage as they define who we are as
descendants of the true Creator.
I belong to
the same kind of spirited men
thousands of years ago