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SATURDAY

Pablo Picasso had many tempestuous and even notorious models, but the woman who may have been the most important model in the life of Picasso’s buddy Henri Matisse was a different sort altogether. Monique Bourgeois became Sister Jacques-Marie early in her life, although not until after she had posed for Matisse. The two met in 1942 when the young woman was hired as a night nurse for the artist, then recovering from surgery. Her parents had told her she was ugly, Jacques-Marie tells this documentary’s director, Barbara Freed, so she wasn’t sure she should respond to an ad seeking a “pretty” nurse. But Matisse hired her and soon insisted on sketching and painting her (never nude, the nun is careful to explain). When the war intruded on Matisse’s Nice, he relocated inland to the village of Vence. There, artist and model met again, first when Bourgeois was recovering from TB and later after she took her vows. Impressed by one of Jacques-Marie’s drawings, Matisse told her it should be the basis for a stained-glass window—“and once he got an idea, he never let it go.” Thus began La Chapelle du Rosaire à Vence, Matisse’s crowning work, a marvel of refracted light completed in 1954. Her superiors were hostile, but Jacques-Marie was involved in every aspect of the project, although she insists she doesn’t “deserve any glory.” Perhaps not, but this film shows that she does deserve a part in any account of Matisse’s career. The film screens at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, in the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th Street and Constitution Ave. NW. Free. (202) 842-6799. (Mark Jenkins)