Mattise as a Printmaker

Henri Matisse. Nadia, smiling face. 1948
Henri Matisse. Nadia, smiling face. 1948

The Baltimore Museum of Art is presenting the first comprehensive exhibition on the printmaking of Henri Matisse. On view October 25, 2009 – January 3, 2010, Matisse as Printmaker unites the BMA’s extraordinary collection of Matisse prints with a traveling exhibition organized by the American Federation of Arts, a non-profit arts organization, and the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. The BMA’s exhibition features approximately 170 works of art spanning 50 years of Matisse’s career. More than 150 prints, as well as a selection of related paintings, sculpture, drawings, and books are included, providing compelling evidence of the important role printmaking played in the evolution of Matisse’s visual ideas.

Matisse as Printmaker loosely follows the chronology of Matisse’s career, from the artist’s earliest print in 1900to the last in 1951. Examples of every printmaking technique used by Matisse—etchings, monotypes, lithographs, linocuts, aquatints, drypoints, woodcuts, and color prints—are included. Almost all of the prints involve serial imagery with the artist showing the development of a reclining or seated pose, the integration of models within interiors, the study of facial expressions, and the transformation of a subject from a straight representation to something more

abstract or developed. Illustrated books such as Poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé (c. 1932), Pasiphaé (1944), and Jazz (1947) demonstrate Matisse’s brilliant innovations in the presentation of serial imagery. The artist’s brief experimentation with color printmaking is represented with three impressions of the color aquatint Marie-José en robe jaune (1950) and a print titled La Dance (1935), which captures the composition of his first version of the mural intended for Albert Barnes. Though most of the exhibitions and research to date have focused on Matisse’s painting and sculpture, the rich variety of media and subject matter in Matisse as Printmaker significantly advance the scholarship and public awareness of this understudied aspect of Matisse’s oeuvre.

The exhibition comprises 63 prints from the collection of the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, with artworks bequeathed by Henri Matisse to his younger son Pierre (1900–1989), an eminent dealer of modern art. These prints are complemented with a selection of works from the BMA’s world-renowned Cone Collection formed by Baltimore sisters Claribel and Etta Cone. Additionally, many of the later prints in the exhibition are from a recent gift to the BMA from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation and are being shown for the first time. These works are a major addition to the BMA’s collection as they bring the Museum’s representation of Matisse’s prints to more than 400 images, plus all but one of his illustrated books, making it the most important collection of the artist’s prints in North America. These works are rarely on view to the public due to their sensitivity to light. There is no admission charge for this exhibition.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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