Matisse: In Search of True Painting



of an Exhibit

by Susan Spencer

Published on December 29, 2012

  • Description:

    On an unseasonably warm and rainy day in early December, I decided to see Matisse: In Search of True Painting at the Metropolitan, on view until March 17, 2013. The holiday crowds throughout the museum made me leery of over-crowding in the exhibition. After I walked down the peopled hallway leading to the exhibit, I was pleasantly surprised to find an almost empty, large white space with the exhibit name on the wall. Nearby, some visitors were gathering and plugging themselves into audio guides. I found the vast entrance to the exhibit to be a little confusing, but it did provide a space to take a breath before entering what I hoped would be a visual feast.

    I was not disappointed. Matisse’s vivid colors sing out from the white walls in the first few of the eight rooms. The paintings show Matisse’s experimentation with different styles, a theme that continues throughout the show. With a background in art history, I find this exploration into Matisse’s creative practice intriguing. Many of the paintings are displayed in pairs so the visitor can see how Matisse has taken a subject and repeatedly explored it in various styles.

    In the second room I became entranced by Matisse’s use of color in two paintings, Young Sailor I and Young Sailor II. The greens, blues, and the unexpected pink, drew my eyes as soon as I enter the room. The sailor figure is the same in both paintings, in the same pose and yet incredibly different in style and mood. I could not help thinking, as a museum educator, of the various ways I could engage a group a students with these paintings.

    The galleries became smaller, more intimate due, in part, to changes in room shape and wall color. There was also the addition of multi-media videos with information from the curator. What clearly begins to emerge is a story – from the friends and models who knew Matisse and the photographs taken of his paintings in their various stages, they all tell us about Matisse. This is where are the people were – listening to their audio guides or talking to each other as they look at the blue skirt in which Lydia Delectorskaya, a Russian emigre, posed for Matisse’s The Large Blue Dress, 1937.

    I walked out of the last gallery, with its bold and colorful paintings, such as Interior with an Egyptian Curtain, 1948. I was not ready for the exhibit to be over, I wanted more stories from those who knew him, more of Matisse’s thoughts about painting and more vibrant paintings! I entered the exhibit interested in looking at Matisse’s technique and use of color but I ended up becoming absorbed by the stories. So, thank goodness for the handy exhibition store right outside the end of the exhibit, where I found some postcards to recall the experience until I have a chance to revisit this quite engaging exhibition.

Latest Comments (1)

"I wanted more . . ."

by Kathleen Mclean - December 29, 2012

These are words we should all strive for as our visitors leave our exhibitions.

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