Henri Matisse, Le Luxe II, 1907-08
Henri Matisse, Le Luxe II, 1907-08

Matisse is known for his powerful images executed with a strong appreciation for the beauty of color and line. The subject of this exhibition is Matisse’s experimental process, specifically how he developed his work by repeating compositions while using different formal means of expression

One of the great master
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), considered one of the great masters of 20th century art, is known for his powerful images executed with a strong appreciation for the beauty of color and line. Throughout his life Matisse maintained a searching approach to art, repeatedly testing and challenging his means of expression.

Repetition and variation
The subject of this exhibition is Matisse’s experimental process, specifically how the artist developed his work by repeating compositions while using different formal means of expression. Studying this dual facet of repetition and variation in Matisse’s art allows us to better understand the concerns of the man and his art.

This exhibition will present the main phases of Matisse’s development with a selection of paintings that spans Matisse art from around 1900 until the late 1940s.

Painted several identical compositions in different styles
Soon after moving to Paris, Matisse became intrigued with the innovative artistic styles he discovered there. He painted several identical compositions in the style of each. Intrigued with the approach, this led to a continued experiment with pairs and series as a method to explore the potential of painting and push the boundaries of his own expression.

Working in pairs and series
As his own style developed, Matisse found that working in pairs—repeating his images in subtly different ways on canvases of the same dimensions—was a useful approach. Some of these pairs--including the great figure compositions Young Sailor I and II (1906-07), Le Luxe I and II (1907), and Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance” I and II (1912) all key pictures in his early production , are an important focus of our exhibition.

By the 1920s, Matisse’s aesthetic explorations had evolved so that he no longer worked strictly in pairs, but rather in series. His subject matter was now still lifes on the beach at Normandy, views from his hotel window in Nice, and odalisques. “My idea,” he explained, “is to push further and deeper into true painting.”

Photographed his works in progress
Matisse had photographed his works in progress in the early years of his career. In the 1930s he took up the procedure again and hired a photographer specifically to document the way in which his compositions dramatically changed from one day to the next. Photography was a way of preserving various states of each painting.

The creative process on public display
In 1945, the photos were presented in an extraordinary exhibition conceived by Matisse himself and installed in the Paris gallery of his friend Aimé Maeght. Colorful canvases such as Le Rêve (1940) and Still Life with Magnolia (1940) were juxtaposed with large black-and-white photographs of the earlier states of the paintings. For the first time, Matisse’s creative process was on public display, and the exhibition confirmed that the journey was as rewarding as the final result.

Paintings, drawings and photographs
The exhibition will include approximately fifty paintings by Matisse, as well as drawings and photographs. New technical studies of the early pairs will be presented in the context of the exhibition and in the accompanying catalogue.

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Statens Museum for Kunst
Website
www.smk.dk/matisse
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