Matisse – A Family Study Guide

This article was originally written when the Minneapolis Institute of Arts hosted a travelling Matisse exhibit. While that exhibit is gone, you can still use much of the study portion of this article at any time. The MIA has several Matisse pieces in its permanent collection, so while the exhibit is gone, you can still end your study with a museum visit.


My eldest daughter is one of those naturally grownup kids.  When she was an only child, we could dress her up and take her anywhere  — even as a baby and toddler. You can imagine our surprise when Thing 2 and Thing 3 came along and we found out it had nothing to do with our superb parenting skills.

Even though Thing 1 has always been our little lady, I learned from a disastrous visit to prep her for things that require more concentration than is reasonable for her age.  Because we had regularly visited the Walker with Arty Pants throughout her toddlerhood, I mistakenly thought I could take her to the Vatican Exhibit at the History Museum. It did not go well. The exhibit was dark, we had stood in line a long time watching other kids play in the fun exhibits, and she had no idea what we were looking at.  (Really, I had no idea either).  We kind of ruined the visit for my sister — who didn’t bring a toddler.  After that, we started prepping for grown up things.  This has worked very well both for her and her much wilder younger brothers. We used to do a lot more with the library, but that takes a couple weeks pre-planning, so my suggestions below are for more instant results.

When we go, I will go with an exit plan and prep, prep, prep.

Matisse’s style is colorful, but kind of conceptual.  He was good friends with Picasso, and you can see the similarities. Note that this article contains some Amazon affiliate links. FFTC receives a small commission on any purchases made through our site.

Screenshot of Pinterest Board - Marvelous Matisse
Screenshot of Pinterest Board – Marvelous Matisse


I think the easiest way to preview the artwork of Matisse is this Pinterest Page – Marvelous Matisse. We can overview the collection, spend a little more time on the pieces that call to us, and talk about why we like certain pieces.  If I have time, I’ll print their favorites, so we can look to see if they are included in the exhibit.  Kind of a scavenger hunt.


Mattise Webiste
Mattise for Kids – Baltimore Museum of Art

The Balitmore Museum of Art has a Mattise For Kids website with interactive activities your kids can participate in. My kids will love this one. Note: This website requires Adobe Flash.


If you don’t happen to keep art books in your home, look for your books by Eric Carle. I think he may have been inspired by Matisse.  They both use a technique of painting paper and then cutting out shapes to create their pieces.  You could read The Very Hungry Caterpillar or other Eric Carle books and point out this technique — maybe even try it together.  Then when you get to the museum, you can point out examples of where Matisse used this technique, too.

Eric Carle uses techniques developed by Henri Matisse
Amazon link


Our family watched the film, A Model For Matisse before our visit. This was a nice movie for a quiet evening, and I would definately recommend it, but it was not an easy film.  Much of it is in French with subtitles, so there is a lot of reading out loud.  It does not move quickly or have a lot of flash.  Your kids might get bored.  I found it a great way to familiarize myself with Matisse’s art, while also learning a little about his personality and his relationships with others.  I would play it near bedtime and if the kids fall asleep, bonus.

A Model for Matisse.
Amazon link.

A YouTube search may also net you some good videos. 

Joy Peters is a co-creator and writer for

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