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Paul Matisse at his Kalliroscope Gallery in Groton talks about his family and their art. SUN/JOHN LOVE

GROTON — Paul Matisse is proud of his artistic ancestry.

His grandfather was famed French artist Henri Matisse, who changed the course of modern art. His father, Pierre, was acclaimed as a fine-art dealer and gallery owner for decades in New York. And two of his seven children — painter Sophie and potter Alex — are successful artists.

So, too, is Paul Matisse, whose patented kalliroscope designs and striking musical bell sculptures are world-renowned.

But Matisse downplays his artistic accomplishments.

“I’m not an artist. I make things,” he says.

Matisse showcases his impressive work, plus other family creations, including a large drawing his grandfather made late in life, in the Kalliroscope Gallery. Located in the former Baptist Church near Groton Center, it has been Matisse’s home, studio and gallery since 1983, when he sought a larger workspace and bought the old structure.

He clearly loves his art-filled place and enjoys showing what’s important to him. So, too, did his late grandfather, who died in 1954, when Paul was 21 and figuring out his own life’s journey.

An array of beloved objects that Henri used and loved, along with many paintings that feature them, are featured in Matisse in the Studio at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on view April 9-July 9. The first major Matisse show here in 50 years, it is a deeply personal one that explores Henri’s eclectic collection of objects, from vases and chocolate pots to African statues and tapestries. It delves into their intrinsic influence on his work and gives viewers a compelling look at Henri Matisse’s life and his genius.

Paul, now in his 80s and still working and creating at Kalliroscope, recalls that his grandfather was a “demanding person, especially to himself, and that trickled down. We’d be nervous when we visited. He was terribly hard on himself, but we did get our occasional moments with him.”

Paul doesn’t seem as demanding, especially when talking about his offspring.

“Sophie’s been drawing since she was 4 and is a New York artist. Alex is a potter in Asheville, North Carolina (his company’s pottery is on sale at the MFA in the Matisse exhibit gift shop). Michael is a photographer in Seattle. George, the oldest, lives in France and oversees the Matisse family copyrights,” he says.

Paul Matisse discovered his art through design and invention. He earned his BA from Harvard in 1950, attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design and worked at Arthur D. Little in Cambridge product development.

He invented his kalliroscopes after a friend gave him a container filled with kerosene and aluminum flakes.

“The movement fascinated me, so I had to make more,” he recalls.

The Groton gallery’s kalliroscopes swirl and change repeatedly, providing a meditative peace.

“There’s an eternal aspect to them — they never disappoint,” says Matisse, observing their meandering patterns.

Besides kalliroscopes, Matisse makes sonorous interactive bell sculptures. (See related story.) And he designed, fabricated and installed Alexander Calder’s famed mobile in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Paul’s work, and his children’s, differ from Henri Matisse’s brilliant paintings, bronze sculptures and inventive, cut-out paper designs — all on view at the MFA.

But they are distinctive and fine art, indeed. And they keep the Matisse name at the forefront, where it has been since the early 1900s, when Henri gained fame and established his family’s art dynasty.

Paul Matisse creates resonant, interactive musical sculptures that have transformed many sites.

“I had to make a lot of the bells,” said Matisse, who designs the bells, fabricates them in his Groton workshop and oversees their installation.

Locally, he created the The Kendall Band at the Kendall/MIT T station in Cambridge, Charlestown Bells for Revere Park in Boston and Forest Bells in Groton. A musical fence that he designed for the city of Cambridge is now a permanent installation at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln.

His Gallery Bells are installed at the Kalliroscope Gallery. Other bells were created for the Japanese American Memorial in Washington, D.C., the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, and the Science Museum in Charlotte, N.C.

Visit www.paul for information on Paul Matisse. Visit for info on Matisse in the Studio

A photo gallery of Nashoba Valley Voice photographer John Love’s additional pictures for this story can be found at

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is

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