Everyday Hero: Henri Matisse's grandson opens minds with art

By Tammie Fields, Anchor/Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, March 12, 2018, 11:24 AM EDT

Pierre Henri Matisse asks Ocoee students to look closely at a piece of abstract art and says, "Do you see what I see?"

  • Pierre Henri Matisse is the grandson of famous artist
  • He visits schools and uses art to teach life lessons
  • Matisse: I hope kids won't have to go through what my generation did

The grandson of the world-renowned artist, Matisse says art is a big part of his life.

On Matisse's 90th birthday on Feb. 1 — National Freedom Day — Matisse spent part of the day at Innovation Montessori in Ocoee, doing what he does so often: Encouraging young students.

However, his own childhood cut short when the Nazi occupied France.

"I was a teenager during World War II. One day, I found myself free, and the next day I found myself under the tyranny of the Nazis," he recalled.

Living under Nazi occupation in France is why freedom means so much to him. He and his father risked their lives as part of the resistance to liberate Europe from Nazi control.

Pierre Henri Matisse, the grandson of the world-famous artist, is himself an artist and uses those skills during visits to schools, where he talks to students about learning from history. He was a teen when the Nazis occupied France during World War II. (Spectrum News 13)

"I was on the battlefield in Normandy when they landed. I was on the German side, doing sabotage like many other French people, and then I was on no man's land between the Germans and the Allied. And after that finally I got freedom," he said.

Back at Innovation Montessori, he's hoping to keep the students' minds open to seeing the world differently.

"These gentlemen and ladies... They are going to be the people who make this nation the best that it can be. I hope that they will be free and never have to be subjected to the atrocity and the suffering that my generation went through," he said.

It is an art lesson but also a life one.