The play is based on the true story of Henri Matisse’s creation of the chapel at Vence. Matisse was the best-loved artist of the 20th century, but the inspiration behind what he called his greatest achievement is practically unknown.
In 1942, 73-year-old Henri Matisse was living in Nice, recovering from a serious operation. He needed help, so he hired Monique Bourgeois, a 21-year-old nursing student. While she looked after him, they debated religion, art and the meaning of commitment — and he came to love her.
Five years later, they were both living in Vence. Now she was Sister Jacques-Marie, living in a convent where the chapel was a garage with a leaky roof. Would Matisse design a stained-glass window so the convent could raise money for repairs? Instead, he created a new chapel, the Chapelle du Rosaire, for her; the building stands as a testament to the enduring care she gave him.
“This is not a work that I chose, but rather a work for which I was chosen by fate, he said. “It is the masterpiece of my entire career.”