From December 4, 2012 through March 17, 2013, the exhibition "Matisse: In Search of True Painting", which The New York Times calls "one of the most thrillingly instructive exhibitions about this painter, or painting in general, that you may ever see," is presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In cooperation with the National Gallery of Denmark in Copenhagen and Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, in Paris, Matisse masterpieces from across the world are brought together providing an incredible insight into Matisse's work. The exhibition, presented in Copenhagen earlier this year as “Matisse: Fordobling og Variation,” is co-curated by Dorthe Aagesen from the National Gallery of Denmark.A Quiet DissidentHenri Matisse (1869-1954) is one of the most important figures and far-reaching innovators of the art of painting in the 20th century. His bold deformation of the human figure, his coarse lines, his liberation of color, and his highly insistent accentuation of the painterly marked a clear break with the expectations of art prevalent at the time. Yet while his shocked contemporaries viewed these features as horrendously barbaric, Matisse himself had no desire for conflict and provocation. Rather, the paintings – with their sense of harmony and optimistic color schemes – were intended to offer a moment of pleasure, independent from the toils and tragedies of everyday life.
Matisse meets MatisseHowever, Matisse’s own approach to visual language was not quite as effortless and unproblematic as the final images may suggest. The exhibition “Matisse: In Search of True Painting” presents a picture of an artist who retained an exploring – and frequently doubting – approach to his art throughout his life, constantly testing and challenging his own mode of expression. Or, as he himself put it: ”My concern is to push further and deeper into true painting.”
Presenting 53 paintings, 15 drawings, and 22 photographs – many of them major masterpieces – the exhibition provides an overview of Matisse’s life’s work from the very beginnings of his career to the end. However, this exhibitions differs from standard retrospectives about this French artist by virtue of its insistent focus on the artistic process itself; here, Matisse’s method of exploration comes under close scrutiny. Special attention is directed towards how the artist would repeat the same motif in series and pairs while systematically varying the colours and modes of expression. The exhibition juxtaposes a wide range of these interrelated works, several of which have rarely been shown together since they left the artist’s studio.
Photo documentation and technical studies During some periods of his career Matisse had his works photographed at crucial stages of the creative process. The photographs offered a way at capturing a range of possible solutions for each painting, documenting the often dramatic changes that would take place from one day to the next. The exhibition presents a range of these photographs, which testify to how the process itself was often as important to the artist as the final outcome. The exhibition also presents the results of technical studies conducted on a number of central works over the course of the years of research that preceded the exhibition. Together, these studies and photographs offer visitors a chance to gain deep insights into Matisse’s working process.