A family affair: the Jacqueline Matisse Monnier Collection
Jackie Matisse inherited paintings and drawings from his famous grandfather Henri, but also collected the works of his golden circle of friends, which included some of the greatest artists of the 20th century.
When Jacqueline Matisse Monnier was around 16, her grandfather Henri Matisse made a charcoal sketch of her. In the drawing, Jacqueline’s face is a perfect oval, her eyes are wide and questioning, while the beginning of a small smile plays over her mouth.
It is the portrait of a girl with the world at her feet. The Second World War had just ended and Jackie, as she was known, would spend the rest of her long life (she died last year at the age of 90) in the grip of art, at both as a creator and a collector.
The 1947 sketch is one of 78 lots in the Jacqueline Matisse Monnier Collection, which will be auctioned at Christie’s Paris on April 13. It is characteristic of a collection in which each work has a personal story behind it.
These stories concern not only her family but also the stable of major European artists of the 20th century represented by her father, Pierre, in New York, as well as the many artist friends that Jackie made and whose works she collected. .
The collection includes works by Henri Matisse, Alberto and Diego Giacometti, Joan Miró (Jackie’s godfather), Jean Dubuffet, Yves Tanguy, Yves Klein, Niki de Saint Phalle and François-Xavier Lalanne. There are also several works by Marcel Duchamp, who became Jackie’s stepfather after marrying her mother, Alexina ‘Teeny’ Sattler, in 1954, following Teeny’s divorce from Pierre.
From 1961 to 1971, Jackie worked on the construction of Duchamp’s boxes-in-suitcases — a series of leather-bound cases containing miniature reproductions of the artist’s most famous works.
Two late periods boxes-in-suitcases are included in the sale. One of Jackie’s three sons, Robert Monnier, believes the project, which required considerable manual dexterity, encouraged his mother to create her own “art of flight” – brightly colored kites with long tails to patterns, which she has shown in exhibitions across the United States and Europe. .
“I think she was an artist to the core,” says Jackie’s only daughter, Caty Shannon. “It eventually became apparent because she was living in that environment. But I think she’s always been an artist since she was a little girl. She couldn’t help it.
Jackie was born in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1931, but grew up in New York. The same year she was born, her father opened the Pierre Matisse Gallery in the Fuller Building on East 57th Street, and her grandfather was the subject of MoMA’s first monographic exhibition.
She spent her childhood surrounded by the work of artists like Giacometti, Balthus and Miró, whose work her father introduced to the American public. She attended the Brearley School for girls, where one of her classmates was French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle, who became a lifelong friend.
After the war, Jackie returned to Paris, where she studied literature at the Sorbonne. She often visited the studio and home of the sculptor Constantin Brâncuși, who had taught Jackie’s mother when she was a student at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière.
Back in New York, Jackie met Bernard Monnier, a young French banker, whom she married in 1954. They settled in Paris, where Bernard worked in the family bank and Jackie took care of their four children.
They begin to fill their house, a large apartment on rue du Bac in the 7th arrondissement, with works of art. “Part of the collection belonged to our grandfather, Pierre, and my mother inherited these works,” says their son Antoine. “Other works were received following the death of his grandfather, Henri, or as wedding gifts.
The first two lots of the upcoming sale are part of these legacies: Matisse’s large-scale oil painting and the Conté crayon Nymph and red faun (1939) and the painted bronze sculpture by Alberto Giacometti small bust of a man (1950).
Robert has vivid memories of family dinners under Oceania, the sea (1946), a limited edition serigraph on beige linen inspired by Matisse’s memories of a 1930 trip to Tahiti.
For Antoine Lebouteiller, Head of Impressionist and Modern Art at Christie’s France, Oceania, the sea and its associated composition, Oceania, the sky (1946), are the highlights of the upcoming sale. These works, based on paper models of Tahitian flora and fauna, are one of the first examples of Matisse using cutouts. “The last screen print of Oceania that we sold dates back to 2012 in London,” says Lebouteiller. At the time, it sold for around £3m, so we’re already seeing a lot of interest in both works.
Jackie and Bernard also started buying art or receiving gifts from their growing circle of artist friends. “There was a large group of post-war artists, including Niki de Saint Phalle and her husband Jean Tinguely, Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri and Martial Raysse, who were known as the New Realistsand they were all very close to Jacqueline,” says Lebouteiller.
Antoine Monnier recalls his parents buying one of Saint Phalle’s most controversial works, Altar OAS (1962-92), now at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice. The metal altar took its title from the Organization Armée Secrète, a right-wing terrorist group that opposed Algerian independence, something Saint Phalle openly supported. “My parents bought it very early, says Antoine. “Not everyone would have done that because it was very provocative, with weapons and crosses stuck on it.”
The Monniers also supported Martial Raysse when his figurative painting was deeply out of fashion. “I remember when he walked into our apartment – he was like a Marxist walking into a very bourgeois house,” Robert says. “But he and my parents became friends. I guess friendships were a very big part of how much of this collection came to Jackie.’
For Flavien Gaillard, Head of Design at Christie’s France, there is a playful side to the collection. This is seen in a pair of Star lamp bases (1933-4) by Alberto Giacometti, and a bronze Owl Coat Racks (1965) by his brother Diego. “The coat rack with the owl is a very poetic object,” says Gaillard. “Diego’s whole life has been influenced by wooden toys and small animals. He took this memory from his childhood and incorporated it into the furniture he made. You don’t see a Diego Giacometti coat rack very often. The last one that came to auction sold for over a million euros.
Bath time also proved to be an artistic event for Jackie’s children, who rejoiced as they got to splash around in a bright blue hippopotamus. Hippo I (1968-69), another highlight of the upcoming sale, was a prototype molded in polyester resin by French designer François-Xavier Lalanne.
Lalanne and his wife Claude, who worked as a creative duo, originally sold Hippo I to Teeny, who was a close friend and neighbor. But soon after, he was moved into Jackie’s apartment and her children commandeered him.
“The Monniers have become very close friends with the Lalannes,” Gaillard says. “I think they shared a love for this surreal animal, which you can see as part of a figurative narrative that runs throughout their collection. It is important to note that the Lalanne and the Giacometti are very sculptural pieces.
They certainly weren’t just to watch. “As children, we always had a very tactile relationship with these works of art,” Shannon recalls. His brother Nicolas agrees. “We were lucky enough to develop an intimate relationship with these works of art,” he says. “It was a way of teaching us to capture beauty with our eyes wherever it is. It wasn’t always in works of art, but in simple objects like ready-mades and objects from nature.
A lesser-known aspect of Jackie’s artistic practice was her habit of bringing home objects discovered on the streets of Paris. “She would pick up things like subway tickets, crumpled cigarette packets and match packets, and then make things out of them,” Robert recalled. “We were interested in things found by chance. Growing up, we were all influenced by this aspect of Jackie’s personality.