Matisse: Creativity and Experimentalism

Article excerpt

From early still lifes through Cubism to paper cutouts, the artist's works spanned the Golden Age of modern art.

MUSEUM TODAY

THE MOST comprehensive exhibition ever held of the work of the French master Henri Matisse (1869-1954) comprises more than 400 pieces that illustrate the artist's exceptional range and depth. The exhibition offers the opportunity for a reassessment of his career and the critical role his work plays in the history of 20th-century art. Matisse is revealed fully not only as a painter of scenes of primal beauty, but as one whose art rests on a foundation of extraordinary visual intelligence and rigorous discipline.

The retrospective draws extensively on the four most important, and mutually complementary, Matisse collections in the world: those of The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia; the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; the Musee National dart Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York. It thus is able to represent Matisse's most innovative period, from Fauvism through the experimental years, more thoroughly than ever before. By joining these with masterworks from numerous other private and public collections, the exhibition is expanded to encompass the artist's entire career. The show is divided into seven sections:

1890-1904: Discovering Modern Art opens the exhibition with Matisse's work of the 1890s, academic paintings and tonal still lifes in which his interest in the art of Jean Chardin and Dutch naturalism is evident. His transition to the vocabulary of more contemporary painting is seen in "The Dinner Table." From this point, Matisse's art is seen changing rapidly, demonstrating an interest especially in Neo-Impressionism and the work of Paul Cezanne. The influence of Cezanne, a dominating force in Matisse's art from 1900 through 1904, is seen in "Male Model" and "Carmelina."

1905-07: The Fauvist Epoch follows the early work with an exploration of Matisse's invention of an art of pure color. This period is richly represented through a group of his breakthrough canvasas painted in the summer of 1905 at Collioure, France, including "The Open Window," and by important subsequent Fauve paintings, among them "Interior with a Young Girl" and "Pink Onions." The conclusion of Fauvism is marked by the famous "Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra" and the two versions of " Le Luxe, " which lead to Matisse's decorative style.

1908-13: Art and Decoration explores the period when the painter established the use of brilliant, flat color and decorative pattern for which his art is best known. …