Conversation under the Olive Trees

Henri Matisse

Conversación bajo los olivos

Matisse, Henri

Le Câteau-Cambresis, 1869 - Niza, 1954

Conversation under the Olive Trees, 1921

© Succession H.Matisse - VEGAP, Madrid, 2015

Signed lower left: 'Henri Matisse''.
Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection on loan to the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid

Oil on canvas

100 x 82 cm


Artwork history

  • Josse & Gaston Bernheim-Jeune, Pars, April 20, 1921 (adquired from the artist by 5.500 francs)

  • A. de Seyssel, Paris

  • Stephen Hahn, New York, 1981

  • Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Lugano, 1983

  • Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection


Henri-Matisse, Basilea, Kunsthalle Basel, n. 64


Henri-Matisse, Exposition organisée au profit de l'Orphelinat des Arts, París, Galerie Georges Petit, n. 88. Como: "La Conversation sous les oliviers"


La femme 1800-1930, París, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, n. 60. Como: "La Conversation dans un parc"


Peintres de Portraits, París, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune


Depuis Bonnard, París, Musée National d'Art Moderne, n. 128, lám. 12


Chefs d'oeuvre de Henri Matisse, París, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, n. 16, lám. Como: "Deux femmes dans un paysage de Provence"


Exposition des parfums Lubin, París, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, n. 17


L'Art et la Mode, París, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, n. 12


Exposition Matisse, París, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune


Un siècle de paysage de France, 1870-1970, Tokio, Grand Magasin Matsuzakaya; Nagoya, Grand Magasin Matsuzakaya, n. 21, lám.

1986 - 1987

Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice. 1916-1930, Washington (DC), National Gallery of Art, n. 95, p. 305, lám. 129 p. 175

1992 - 1993

Henri Matisse: A Retrospective, Nueva York, The Museum of Modern Art, n. 251, lám. p. 325


De Canaletto a Kandinsky. Obras maestras de la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, . no figuró en el catálogo

1996 - 1997

From Zurbaran to Picasso. Masterpieces from the Collection of Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Shanghai, Shanghai Museum; Pekín, China National Art Gallery, p. 148, lám. p. 149


Del post-impresionismo a las vanguardias. Pintura de comienzos del siglo XX en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza, Valencia, IVAM Centre Julio González, n. 38, p. 126, lám. p. 127


Modigliani y su tiempo, Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza - Fundación Caja Madrid, n. 123, p. 196, lám. p. 175

2008 - 2009

Matisse: Menchen, Masken, Modelle, Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Hamburgo, Bucerius Kunst Forum, n. 64, lám. p. 159


Matisse (1917-1941), Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, n. 15, p. 230, lám. p. 59

2010 - 2011

Matisse y La Alhambra. 1910-2010, Granada, La Alhambra, Palacio de Carlos V, 17, p. 110, lám. p. 111


La tradición moderna en la Colección Carmen Thyssen. Monet, Picasso, Matisse, Miró, Málaga, Museo Carmen Thyssen Málaga, p. 148, lám. p. 149

2012 - 2013

Rusiñol, Monet, Gauguin, Sunyer. El paisaje en la Colección Carmen Thyssen, Gerona, CaixaForum; Tarragona, CaixaForum; Lérida, CaixaForum, n. 42, p. 138, lám. p. 139


L'ideal en el paisatge. De Meifrèn a Matisse i Gontxarova. Col·lecció Carmen Thyssen, Sant Feliu de Guíxols, fundació Privada Centre d'Art Col·lecció Catalana de Sant Feliu de Guíxols, p. 76, lám. p. 77

2017 - 2018

Scenarios. From Monet to Estes. From Trouville to Nueva York. Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra, 16 March 2017-14 January 2018. p. 52-53.

  • -Faure, Elie [et al.]: Henri Matisse. París, Georges Crés & Cie, 1923, fig. 24.

  • -Barnes, Albert C. y Mazia, Violette de: The Art of Henri Matisse. Merion, The Barnes Foundation Press, 1933, pp. 63, 64, 83, 110, 111, 140, 144, 157, fig. p. 315.

  • -Mushakojo: Henri Matisse 1890-1939. Tokio, Tokamizawa Colour Print Studio, 1939, fig. 159, p. 79.

  • -Ogawa, Masataka: Matisse-Rouault. Tokio, Kawade Shobo, 1966, lám. 20.

  • -Luzi, Mario y Carrà, Massimo: L’opera di Matisse dalla rivolta ‘fauve’ all’intimismo. 1904-1928. Milan, Rizzoli, 1971, n. 355, p. 101, fig. p. 100.

  • -Pury, Simon de: “Acquis par Thyssen”.  Connaissance des Arts. París, october 1983, n. 380, pp. 70-71, lám.

  • -Schneider, Pierre: Matisse. Paris, Flammarion, 1984, p. 86, lám.

  • -Cowart, Jack y Fourcade, Dominique: Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice. 1916-1930. [Exhib. Cat. 1986-1987]. Washington DC, National Gallery of Art – New York, Harry N. Abrams, 1986, n. 95, pp. 28, 305, lám. 129 p. 175.

  • -Elderfield, John: Henri Matisse: A Retrospective. [Exhib. Cat. 1992-1993]. New York, Museum of Modern Art, 1992, n. 251, p. 292, lám. p. 325.

  • -Dauberville, Guy-Patrice y Michel: Matisse. Henri Matisse chez Berheim-Jeune. París, Editions Bernheim-Jeune, 1995, vol. I, pp. 137, 157, 173, 184, 233; vol. II, n. 454, pp. 978, 1439, lám. pp. 977- 979.

  • -Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. Arnaldo, Javier (ed.). 2 vols. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2004, vol. 2, p. 250, lám. p. 251 [Sheet by Pierre Schneider]

  • -Conzen, Ina: “The True Image. On Spirituality in Hanri Matisse’s Portraits”. Stuttgart / Hambourg 2008-2009, pp. 12-35 , cit. p. 27.

  • -Matisse: People, Masks, Models. Rainbird, Sean [et. al.] (ed.). [Exhib. Cat. Stuttgart, Staatsgalerie; Hamburgo, Bucerius Kunst Forum]. Munich, Hirmer Verlag, 2008 [ed. Germany: Matisse: Menchen, Masken, Modelle] , n. 64, pp. 208, 218, lám. p. 159.

  • -Llorens, Tomàs: “Matisse entreguerras”. Madrid 2009, pp. 13-157 , cit. pp. 50-51, fig. p. 51, lám. p. 59.

  • -Llorens, Tomàs: Matisse (1917-1941). [Exhib. Cat.]. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2009.

  • -Jarauta, Francisco y Villafranca, María del Mar: Matisse y La Alhambra. 1910-2010. [Exhib. Cat.]. Granada, La Alhambra, Palacio de Carlos V, 2010, n. 17, p. 110, lám. p. 111 [Sheet by Juan Ángel López-Manzanares]

  • -Borobia, Mar y Alarcó, Paloma (eds.): Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Obras escogidas. Madrid, Fundación Colección Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2011, p. 270, lám. p. 271.

  • -Alarcó, P. y Borobia, M. (eds.): Guía de la colección. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, 2012, p. 388, lám. p. 389.

  • -Scenarios. From Monet to Estes. From Trouville to Nueva York. Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Museu Carmen Thyssen Andorra, 2017,   p. 52-53 (Exhib. Cat.) [Sheet by Pierre Schneider]

Expert report

Beneath their tranquil surface, Matisse’s paintings often conceal a complex discourse expressing his conflicting aspirations through the relationship between subject and style. Conversation under the Olive Trees is particularly revealing in this respect. Two elegant ladies standing on the lawn seem to be chatting. Behind them is a path; on the far side and slightly lower, we see a grove of olive-trees, while further away appears the silhouette of a hill, and beyond it another. The canvas was painted directly from nature in 1921, in the countryside around Nice. The title, which refers to olive trees, and the open sunshade of one of the young ladies speak to us of the south and sun.

The palette, however, is a restrained one: the subdued browns, blues, greens, whites and greys often make one think of Corot, admired by Matisse, who seems to have remembered his advice to put a touch of red in every picture (in his only concession to southern exuberance, Matisse has here put three). The grass seems to exude a light dew, while a morning haze hangs on the foliage. In short, in this “landscape with figures”, as in all the scenes that he painted in the Midi after the war ended, Matisse is “thinking of the north” (during this period he also went to paint in Étretat). These were the years when a “call to order” was in fashion, at a time when the artist of the day was Derain.

Matisse composes in accord with the atmosphere of the time, but without betraying his convictions. It was through Impressionist landscape that he initially approached modern art. Here he is striving to return to it. It goes without saying that he never arrived: by simplifying, or rather by accentuating, the elements of the composition, a scene that seemed bound to slide softly towards the past is led imperceptibly towards the present, in other words to the pictorial plane-the categorical imperative of modernity that he himself had so much helped to impose on the age. The two young women will not get onto the mechanical pavement that descends behind them in the guise of an avenue.

As the artist noted in 1908, figures were what particularly interested. Since Le bonheur de vivre (1906), he had been dreaming of reintegrating them into a paradise of decoration which blended into the pictorial plane. But the role of that background could no longer be filled by landscape, which was too difficult to reconcile with the aesthetics of decoration that henceforth constituted his great plan, glimpsed in Morocco in 1912-1913, interrupted by the war, and temporarily suspended. It was not until a quarter of a century later that he created a painting conceived as a carpet. In the meantime, he painted rugs that hung from walls and wallpaper that simulated marble or tiles, as well as lattice windows, furniture, accessories and exotic costumes: a whole range of artificial décor in his pictures that made one forget the presence of real walls and the use of painting procedures developed in western art to make their space measurable. Confined within these interiors, in which the external world does not enter except through the window, the figures wait for Matisse to discover how to introduce them into the garden of Eden of decoration and dare to do so. Conversation under the Olive Trees, which is one of the artist’s last landscapes, is the one in which the figures take their leave of nature.

Pierre Schneider