Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917
I previewed the new Art Institute of Chicago exhibition,
Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917
The exhibition is on view March
Matisse: Radical Invention is a go-see, must-see, bring-your-entire-family, and see it twice exhibition, in my opinion.The painting above represents one extreme in the exhibition; the little works on paper are the other (Standing Nude , is a Matisse monotype from the MoMA collection.)
The Institute’s top-notch staff joined with New
York’s Museum of Modern Art and other institutions to gather about120 images, including monumental and
small paintings, portrait and figure sculptures, tiny monotypes, etchings, intimate
drawings in ink and graphite, some on scraps of paper that Matisse (1869-1954) possibly
never expected to be featured in a major show, and they are right here!
The time period,
1913-1917, coincides with war
The two museums, MoMA and the Art Institute were separately engaged in scientific research on Matisse’s works, notably Bathers
by a River (above) and his Back bas-reliefs, gaining additional knowledge about his practice.
As a visitor to the exhibition I especially enjoyed the access to the work allowing close study
of the displays. Possibly because many are under glass, there are fewer of the familiar barriers keeping viewers at arms length. I expected to trigger an alarm, or alert a guard when I peered, respectfully close, to appreciate Matisse's processes. This is an important education that only seeing, in plain view, the ghosts and shadows where he erased, changing his mind, can give us. Matisse doesn't always eliminate his reworking, perhaps they were mistakes at first, remaining as lyrical and lovely permanent passages in his work.
The museum provides an electronic presentation about Matisse’s radical innovations during this period.
Let me go back to the preview and some of the important details and credits. The museum’s director, James Cuno, invited the media to a press luncheon to launch the show. In the galleries we intermingled with museum members, possibly because the media has shrunk so much that it would neither fill the place, nor interfere much with the paying guests.
Cuno introduced the curators Stephanie D’Allessandro (Art
Institute) and John Elderfield (emeritus, MoMA), named lenders and funders to the exhibition,
explaining how a painting already in the Art Institute collection inspired the
show. Cuno introduced other significant contributors, even the
legal staff! This endeavor must have been tricky in more ways than one. Cuno
remarked, "things were ferociously acquired through an intense process”.
The fight was well worth its results! If you like art, this exhibition may push you into the love art column as you bathe in the color palette of the master artist and then witness his decision to remove color, neutralizing canvasses with grays, nodding to the contemporary art thing, Cubism. Inspired by Paul Cezanne, who by the way, is represented in this major endeavor, Matisse painted Cezanne’s work.
You will also notice the facile line of Matisse's
graphite drawings, remnants of pencil in his painting and use of sgrafitto in his large
paintings. Opposite to the vigorous scraping out in the large works are the dainty monotypes, also made by scratching delicate lines on a prepared
plate, then printing on paper.
Not an “accurate” drawer, clearly that was not the point, the series of nude drawings in the show demonstrate that a confident line can take an artist a long way.
The catalog* (below) is $45.00, soft
cover or $55.00 hardcover.
For regular gallery hours, special member's hours, tickets prices, free hours, location and more, please click here: Art Institute of Chicago .
*Catalog photo credit: Alvin Langdon Coburn (British, 1882-1966). Henri Matisse painting
Bathers by a River, May 13, 1913. Photograph. Courtesy of George
Eastman House, International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester,