Henri Matisse


French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was well known for his artistically bold uses of color and pattern. But there is also great depth and detail to Matisse’s work, which visitors to the Indianapolis Museum of Art can now see for themselves in “Matisse, Life in Color: Masterworks from The Baltimore Museum of Arts.”

This collection of more than 100 works of art comes from the Cone Collection in the Baltimore Museum of Art and features paintings, sculptures, prints and artist books, according to the IMA.

Rebecca Long, the exhibit’s curator, said Matisse is an artist who is not represented very well in the museum’s collection and the mission with “Matisse, Life in Color,” is to allow the people in Indianapolis to dive deeper into Matisse’s career.

“Color was always the first way into artwork,” Long said. “He had an incredibly varied career, yet he always saw the potential in color.”

Long said some of Matisse’s most famous pieces in the exhibit are “Large Reclining Nude” (1935) and “Yellow Dress” (1929-1931).

“Matisse, Life in Color” depicts the focuses of Matisse’s art through the stages of his life.   The opening room in the gallery shows the many external landscapes that Matisse painted and drew.  Visitors then get to explore what Matisse most frequently painted: internal scenes.

Many of these scenes include windows, representing Matisse’s belief that his studio was a continuation of the outside world.

While much of Matisse’s work is landscape art, Matisse’s favorite subject was the nude, and many portraits and sculptures are reflective of this.  Even in the portraits, however, Matisse often emphasized the landscape and setting of the art.

The latter half of the “Matisse, Life in Color” exhibit shows how Matisse’s artistic approach constantly evolved throughout his career.  These pieces use a more simplified—yet still detailed—style.  They have striking colors, thick brushstrokes and utilize patterns to create shape.

This is especially true of Matisse’s cut paper artwork.  This art form, which resulted from a serious illness that left Matisse incapacitated later in life, became a hallmark in his career.

“He cut forms out of brightly colored paper and then laid them out in compositions,” Long said.

Matisse compiled many of his cut paper artwork into an artist book, “Jazz,” that embodies his life’s exploration into color.  Long called it one of the most iconic art pieces Matisse ever created.

“Some of it can look pretty childish at first,” said Sarah Strasburg, who viewed the exhibit.  “Yet, it is more sophisticated than it seems initially.”

For Strasburg though, the exhibit was a learning experience as much as an art experience.

“Emotion is the big takeaway,” Strasburg said.  “You can see it in all his pieces.  All the objects are talking to one another and they are not just stagnant.”

Long said Matisse’s primary interest was always an investigation of color.

“No matter what he was doing, there was a tremendous outlook of color.”

While Matisse’s long career and tremendous artistic output are nothing to scoff at, Long said it was his unique perspective that has made Matisse such a world-renowned artist.

The vivid art of Matisse will be on display at the IMA through Jan. 12, 2014. The IMA is located about five minutes from campus at 4000 Michigan Rd.

Tickets for “Matisse, Life in Color” can be purchased online or at the museum.  The exhibit is $18 for adults and $10 for students with a student ID and youth ages seven to 17.  Children six and younger are free.


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