Henri Matisse's Chapel of the Rosary by Mary Elizabeth Podles

Henri Matisse's Chapel of the Rosary

Night nurse needed—Should be young and pretty." So ran the advertisement placed in 1941 by the 71-year-old artist Henri Matisse while he recovered from cancer surgery. Nursing student Monique Bourgeois answered the ad and not only nursed the convalescent painter but also became his model, studio assistant, and close friend. At this point Matisse was experimenting with the cutouts that eventually became the series known as Jazz: essentially drawing with his scissors, he cut brightly painted paper into shapes that his assistants pinned to the wall at his direction. An amateur artist herself, Monique helped to paint the colored paper and position the shapes, and, according to his biographers, Matisse found her to be "stimulating, funny, and touching."

Shortly thereafter, though, Bourgeois contracted tuberculosis and went to a convalescent home run by Dominican nuns in Vence. In 1943, refusing to leave France in spite of the war, Matisse moved to Vence, and the two resumed their friendship. But a stronger friendship called to Monique Bourgeois. She entered the Dominican novitiate and in 1946 took her permanent vows as Sister Jacques-Marie. Matisse had strongly objected to her vocation in his letters to her ("I do not need any lectures about religious calling. I've not needed the sacraments to glorify the name of God throughout my life"), but nevertheless they remained friends.

The Design of the Oratory


Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.

Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

more on art from the online archives

32.4—July/August 2019

Sojourner Knight

on Single-Mindedness in Durer's Ritter, Tod, und Teufel by Anthony Costello

33.2—March/April 2020

Christ Chapel at Hillsdale

An Architectural Sign of Mere Christianity by Michael Ward

30.3—May/June 2017

St. Luke the Evangelist

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

more from the online archives

32.4—July/August 2019

Image- Bearers for God

Does Biblical Language for Man Matter? by Stephen F. Noll

19.10—December 2006

God Rest Ye Merry

by Wilfred M. McClay

28.2—March/April 2015

As Goes Sweden

Neo-Pagan Family Policies Doom Any Recovery by Allan C. Carlson

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone