Canal du Midi

Henri Matisse

Canal du Midi

Matisse, Henri

Le Câteau-Cambresis, 1869 - Niza, 1954

Canal du Midi,1898

© Succession H.Matisse - VEGAP, Madrid, 2015

Signed lower right: ''H. Matisse''.
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.
Location: Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.

Oil on primed wood board

24 x 36 cm


Artwork history

  • Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, París. Photo in Bernheim-Jeune, n. 1430 on the reverse (PMG Archives, MA 5020, box 133.19)

  • Druet Gallery, Paris, 1906. n. 2886

  • Leo y Gertrude Stein, París, adquired in spring 1906

  • Michael y Sarah Stein, Paris y Palo Alto, 1906-1907 until 1938

  • Sarah Stein, Palo Alto, 1938-1949

  • Mr & Mrs. Lionel Steinberg, Palm Springs (CA), 1949

  • Christie’s Auctions, London, lot 147, June 24, 1997

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection

1998 - 1999

Masterworks from the Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Tokio, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Takaoka, Takaoka Art Museum; Nagoya, Matsuzaka Art Museum; Sendai, Miyagi Museum of Art, n. 74, p. 166


Do impresionismo ó fauvismo: A pintura do cambio de século en París. Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Santiago de Compostela, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea, n. 38, p. 116

1999 - 2000

Del impresionismo a la vanguardia en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Barcelona, Centre Cultural Caixa Catalunya, p. 134


Del impresionismo a la vanguardia en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, México, DF, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, p. 122


Del post-impresionismo a las vanguardias. Pintura de comienzos del siglo XX en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, n. 18, p. 64

2000 - 2001

La Révolte de la couleur. De l'impressionnisme aux Avant-gardes. Chefs-d'oeuvre de la Collection Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bruselas, Musée d'Ixelles, n. 28, p. 88


Landschaften von Brueghel bis Kandinsky. Die Ausstellung zu Ehren des Sammlers Hans Heinrich Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza, Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, n. 71, p. 184


Il trionfo del colore. Collezione Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Kandinsky, Roma, Palazzo Ruspoli, p. 188

2011 - 2012

The Steins Collect. Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde, San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art; París, Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais; Nueva York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n. 91, pp. 104 (lám. 57), 377-379, 383, 407, 460

2013 - 2014

Courbet, Van Gogh, Monet, Léger. Del paisaje naturalista a las vanguardias en la Colección Carmen Thyssen, Málaga, Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, n. 39, p. 138, lám. p. 139

2022 - 2023

Made in Paris: La generación de Matisse, Lagar y Foujita. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra. P. 42-43, 112, 164-165.

  • -Schneider, Pierre: Matisse. París, Flammarion, 1984, p. 114.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, p. 246, lám. p. 247 [ Sheet by Tomàs Llorens]

  • -Bishop, Janet; Debray, Cécile y Rabinow, Rebecca (eds.): The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde. [Cat. exp. San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; París, Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais; Nueva York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011-2012]. San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2011, n. 91, pp. 104 (lám.), 377-379, 383, 407 (sheet)

  • -Made in Paris: La generación de Matisse, Lagar y Foujita. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra. [Exhib. Cat.], Ed. Fundació Museu Andorra (Museand),  Principado de Andorra, 2022, p. 42-43, 112, 164-165  [Sheet by Tomás Llorens]

Expert report

Canal du Midi belongs to a series of pictures painted by Matisse near Toulouse during the winter of 1898-1899. Matisse, who left Moreau’s studio in the autumn of 1897, married Amélie Parayre in January of the following year. After a brief honeymoon in London, the couple sojourned for six months in Ajaccio, Corsica. Then, in August 1898, Matisse and his wife travelled to Toulouse, and stayed for six months with Amélie’s parents.

This was the first time Matisse visited the South and he always remembered it as his first encounter with light and colour. Many of the landscapes he painted during that period, including the one we are commenting on, were probably executed outdoors, directly from the model. Yet the colour in them is not naturalistic. The bright sunlight, as Schneider put it, “brings out the colour, and gradually takes it to a point of incandescence where a mutation takes place, and the local tone becomes subjective colour”. In fact, the pictures Matisse painted in that period are generally described as “proto-fauvist”, inasmuch as they seem to anticipate the bright subjective chromatism that, five or six years later, would be the most outstanding mark of fauvism.

If we compare the pictures of Corsica with those of Toulouse, we can observe a shift from the thick impastos of the Corsican period and a brighter and lighter style, culminating in a composition which is practically neo-Impressionist, Sideboard and Table, 1899 (Switzerland, private collection), executed towards the end of his sojourn in Toulouse. One of the reasons for this evolution might have been Signac’s influence. Matisse took a short break during his stay in Ajaccio and travelled to Paris, where he visited the Salon des Indépendants; there, a remarkable group of paintings by Signac stood out. Besides, his book D’Eugène Delacroix au néo-impressionnisme was published in instalments in La Revue Blanche between May and July of that same year.

Canal du Midi is a hasty work executed with fluid paint, but not with the broken stroke that is found in other pictures that Matisse did in that period. Nevertheless, his desire not to superimpose colours and the fact that he left large areas of the background in a pale grey colour can be related to neo-Impressionism. This grey serves as a neutral shade allowing the deep blues, carmine and oranges of the setting sun to breath.

Canal du Midi belonged for a long time to Leo Stein; he and his sister Gertrude had acquired it in the spring of 1906. In the 1906 Salon des Indépendants (March-April) Matisse had only shown a large format painting, Le Bonheur de vivre, which was immediately acquired by Leo and Gertrude Stein. At the same time, their brother Michael bought the sketch for Le Bonheur de vivre, which had been included in an exhibition at the Galerie Druet, as the same time as the Salon des Indépendants. It was also in the exhibition at the Galerie Druet that Leo and Gertrude acquired Canal du Midi.

Tomàs Llorens