Guide to the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives, 1903–1990

Summary of Archives

Creator: Pierre Matisse Gallery (New York, N.Y.)
Title: Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives
Dates: 1903–1992 (bulk 1931–1990)
Extent: 227 cubic feet
Accession number: MA 5020
Repository: The Morgan Library & Museum
Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts
Abstract: The Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives chronicles the emergence of modern art in twentieth century New York and Europe. Pierre Matisse, gallerist and son of painter Henri Matisse, traveled between Europe and the United States throughout his career. The Archives contains the complete records of the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York from 1931 to 1990. Familial correspondence dates from 1903.
Language of materials: Materials are in English and French, some items in Spanish, German, and Italian, with printed material in additional foreign languages. Efforts have been made to indicate the presence of foriegn language material on the file level.

Administrative Information


Gift of The Pierre Matisse Foundation, 1997

Processing History

Beginning in 1993, the staff of the Pierre Matisse Foundation began to arrange and describe the archival materials identified at the Pierre Matisse Gallery. All work was handled under the supervision of a consulting archivist who met frequently with staff to outline a processing program, to review archival techniques of arrangement and description, and to address technical and philosophical concerns that arose in the course of the project.

All materials identified as archival were placed in acid‐free folders, with fragile documents in archival‐approved enclosures, rusty paper clips and staples removed. Brittle and discolored papers have been isolated between sheets of acid‐free bond paper or photocopied onto acid‐free bond papers.

Original artists' correspondence was removed from the Artists record series and placed in special boxes in keeping with Mr. Matisse's wishes. Copies of all such correspondence were made and placed in the Artists files. Original artwork was removed from files, replaced with photocopies where feasible, or notes where the artwork could not be copied. Contained in archival boxes, they now make up the Original artwork series of the Pierre Matisse Foundation record group.

The inventory for the entire collection was originally housed in loose‐leaf binders, a binder for each record series. The binder for a record series contains the data‐entry forms describing the contents of each file folder in the archive. A second copy of the form has been placed in the individual file folder.

The loose‐leaf binders containing data entry forms are still available in paper form in the Sherman Fairchild Reading Room of the Morgan Library. This online finding aid reproduces the paper finding aid but also incorporates updates and corrections.

Notes on Arrangement and Use

The gallery filing order has been retained whenever possible, generally by decade, then alphabetically. The researcher should be aware that the arrangement requires, however, close attention to the interrelationships of the various subject headings.

It is recommended that provenance research occur alongside a catalogue raisonné. From the Artists series, a good initial point of inquiry, information can be found in correspondence, exhibition records (of Pierre Matisse Gallery and also loans of works to others), and in publicity folders consisting of articles. In the Exhibitions series, there is additional information in the Scrapbook subseries, ordered by year. Also, the Pierre Matisse Gallery often rotated works in stock into its group shows, so it may be of use to examine the Group show subseries as well. Also in the Exhibitions series are hardbound books of review clippings. In the Administration series, it might be helpful to investigate invoices and stock books. Research may also lead to the Clients series, as many works were discussed with and sent to Pierre Matisse Gallery clients. Finally, many exhibition catalogues have been collected and ordered in the Pierre Matisse Foundation record group, in the Pierre Matisse Gallery exhibitions subseries.

While the scope notes on the file level are extensive, there is no guarantee of their comprehensiveness. "See also" references as included by the original processing team have been maintained but not expanded. Links are provided to outside pdf documents that may give a researcher a better idea of the contents, when available and appropriate.

How to Access Collection

The Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives is available for consultation by researchers in The Morgan Library & Museum Sherman Fairchild Reading Room. For an application to do research on accessible materials in the Archives, please contact the Reading Room of The Morgan Library & Museum by mail, telephone (212)590-0315 or email More information and an online access form is available on The Morgan website under Research Services. Please include the Box and Folder numbers that appear at the beginning of the brief descriptions of material (e.g. Box X.Folder X)when making a request to consult materials.

Access is by application and appointments are required. Letters of reference may be requested, and photo identification must be presented at the time of visit.

While much of the material has been previously restricted, all material is currently accessible with the exception of financial records from 1981–1990, which will become available January 1, 2020.

Records related to Yves Tanguy and Kay Sage Tanguy (including their estates) are restricted and will become accessible upon publication of a new edition of the Yves Tanguy catalogue raisonné (completing a work published by Pierre Matisse in 1963, Yves Tanguy: A summary of his works). Researchers desiring access to this material before it becomes available may inquire in writing to The Pierre and Maria‐Gaetana Matisse Foundation, 1 East 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10022.


Access to original material in the The Morgan Library & Museum (or possession of photocopies, photographs, or other reproductions of material in the Library) does not constitute permission to publish. Permission to quote from or publish material in the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives must be obtained from The Morgan Library & Museum (as owner of the physical originals) and from the appropriate copyright holder. The Morgan Library & Museum takes no responsibility for possible copyright infringement in publication of its material. Copyright for records of the Pierre Matisse Gallery has been assigned to The Morgan Library & Museum by the donor, but copyright for letters, photographs, artwork, et cetera, created by others is not held by The Morgan. Researchers wishing to publish or quote from letters and documents of others must obtain permission from the appropriate copyright holder. Many artists' copyrights are handled by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York (212)420-9160).

Researchers wishing to publish or quote from Matisse family correspondence must obtain consent from the following:

Letters written by Henri Matisse: Les Hâtiers Matisse, 61 Quai de la Tournelle, 75005 Paris FRANCE

Letters written by Pierre Matisse: Mr. Paul Matisse, 264 Main Street, P.O. Box 60 Groton, MA 01450

Preferred Citation

Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives. MA 5020: Box X, Folder X. Department of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, The Morgan Library & Museum. New York, N.Y.

Biographical and Gallery History

Pierre Matisse (1900–1989)

The younger son of the French painter Henri Matisse, Pierre Matisse opened the art gallery that bore his name in November 1931, in the recently‐completed Fuller Building in New York, at the corner of Madison Avenue and Fifty‐Seventh Street. Between the time of his first arrival in New York from Paris in 1924 and the opening of his gallery, Pierre Matisse acted as European agent in partnership with the New York art dealer Valentine Dudensing. The works of art he acquired during extensive travels throughout Europe, including those from his father, were exhibited in Dudensing's gallery. During the same period, in small group shows in Chicago and other cities across the United States, Pierre Matisse introduced modern European art to American collectors. When the partnership came to an end, during one of the most severe economic depressions in American history, Matisse took the risky step of opening his gallery. Until his death fifty-eight years later, his life and frequent travels between America and France revolved around the operation of the gallery.

Family members were helpful from the beginning: his father, and sister Marguerite (Mrs. Georges Duthuit) located works of art in Europe and helped financially, as did his brother Jean Matisse. His first wife and mother of their three children, Alexina (Teeny) Sattler Matisse, assisted in the gallery during his buying trips. After their divorce he married Patricia Kane Matta, who was not only helpful in the business but became a friend of many gallery artists and clients until her sudden death in 1972. Later Pierre Matisse married Maria‐Gaetana (Tana) von Spreti, whose experience in European and New York galleries made it possible for her to relieve her husband of many duties in his later years. The gallery closed not long after Mr. Matisse's death in 1989.

Pierre Matisse Gallery (1931–1989)

Beginning in two small rooms on the seventeenth floor of the Art Deco Fuller Building, the gallery occupied ever‐larger areas on several lower floors until, in 1947, the final move was made to the large quarters on the southwest portion of the fourth floor.

Throughout his long and sometimes economically precarious career, particularly in the early period, Pierre Matisse never wavered in his belief in his artists: exhibitions were arranged to show their work to the best advantage; catalogues reveal his skills and artistry in choosing colors, typefaces, paper. His often eloquent letters brought the gallery artists to the attention of the most prestigious collectors and art institutions in the country. The painters and sculptors who were the mainstay of the gallery — Miró, Chagall, Balthus, Dubuffet, Giacometti, and his childhood friend Yves Tanguy — were joined by many others as diverse as Calder and Brancusi, Leonora Carrington and John Dos Passos, Jean Ipousteguy and Zao Wou‐ki.

Scope and Content

Recording the history of the Pierre Matisse Gallery, as well as aspects of Mr. Matisse's own life, the archives covers nearly nine decades. World history and art history provide the framework. Pierre Matisse experienced two world wars, was keenly aware of the relationship of French and American mores, and played a major role in the art world, particularly in his introduction of modern European artists to the American public. Mr. Matisse's correspondence covers such major events as the opening of the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1929, the arrival of European artists in the United States to escape the Nazi purge, the effect of Surrealism, and the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York.

The records amount to 227 cubic feet. Many are contained in cubic foot boxes, although some items are housed in boxes with larger dimensions and others have been migrated to flip‐top boxes.

The first record group, 1 cubic foot, is the Pre‐Pierre Matisse Gallery collection (circa 1924–1931), which documents Pierre Matisse's activities in the art world before the founding of his gallery. It is divided into two series and largely dedicated to his partnership with Valentine Dudensing.

The second record group, composing the bulk of the collection, is the Pierre Matisse Gallery collection (circa 1926–1989), divided into ten series. The Administration series (22 cubic feet) consists of several subseries and deal with financial transactions. The Artists series consists of 76 cubic feet, providing a comprehensive record of each artist's relationship with the gallery from the time of his or her initial contact with Pierre Matisse, arranged alphabetically. The Clients series measures 12 cubic feet and elucidates the relationship between client and gallery over time. The next series are Dealers and galleries, United States (3 cubic feet) and Dealers and galleries, international (4 cubic feet). The Exhibitions series, 17 cubic feet, deals with exhibitions and loans, including international fairs. This series includes scrapbooks and review clippings collected by Pierre Matisse Gallery staff. The next series are Museums and art institutions, United States (7 cubic feet) and Museums and art institutions, international (2 cubic feet), which deal largely with circulating exhibitions, sales to art institutions, and loans. The Alphabetical series (2 cubic feet) are assorted records dating to 1959, when the gallery adopted a more nuanced filing system. The final series is comprised of forty boxes of Visual records, which are divided by type and largely of works of art that came through the gallery or of artists in their studios.

The third record group, 28 file folders, is the Pierre Matisse Gallery Editions collection. This was the publishing arm of Pierre Matisse Gallery in 1943 and 1944, and the records relate to the two published works, one regarding Marc Chagall with text by Lionello Venturi, and the other a collaboration between Yves Tanguy and André Breton.

The fourth record group is the Henri and Pierre Matisse and Matisse Family papers (circa 1903–1992). Largely restricted until 2008, these documents consist of correspondence, visual records, and printed material. A significant portion of the Henri and Pierre Matisse and Matisse Family papers is comprised of 833 manuscript letters between Henri Matisse and his son Pierre, dating from 1919 to the death of the former in 1954. The subjects covered in the correspondence are broad in scope and intimate in detail. The record group is divided into 16 series, and largely focus on Pierre Matisse's relationship to his father on a personal level as well as in his role as representative of Henri Matisse's work in the United States.

The fifth record group is the Pierre Matisse Foundation collection. The Pierre Matisse Foundation was founded in 1992 by the heirs of Pierre Matisse: Maria‐Gaetana Matisse, Jacqueline Matisse Monnier, Paul Matisse, and Pierre‐Noel Matisse. The Foundation was founded for the purpose of creating the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives. The records consist of two series. The first, Supplement to the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives, contains inquiries fielded by the Foundation and resources they gathered in regards to Pierre Matisse Gallery exhibitions. The second series, Original artwork, consists of a number of works of art, all on paper, removed from the gallery files as they were processed.

Correspondence with artists and the Matisse family members is frequently in French, with no translations, and consists of varying numbers of files for individual artists, from a few papers to more than two hundred file folders for Joan Miró. Much of the time the presence of foreign language materials has been noted on the folder level, but it is possible this notation is not comprehensive.

Secondary Resources

Very few records appear in the Archives relating to published material on Pierre Matisse and the gallery except for exhibition reviews. Raymond Mason, an artist represented by the Gallery, published an article directly after Mr. Matisse's death: "Pierre Matisse," The Independent (August 14, 1989). A film for television was produced by Gero von Boehm, Portrait de Pierre: Pierre Matisse, une vie, Interscience Film GmbH, 1996.

A resource depicting the relationship between Henri and Pierre Matisse is John Russell's Matisse: Father & Son (New York: H.N. Abrams, 1999), which includes material from the Archives. Additionally, an exhibition related to the Pierre Matisse Gallery was mounted at The Morgan Library & Museum (then The Pierpont Morgan Library) in spring of 2002. Included in the exhibition catalogue, Pierre Matisse and his Artists (New York: The Pierpont Morgan Library, 2001), is a comprehensive exhibition history and biography that could assist a researcher in navigating the Archives.

Box and Folder Lists