Matisse and American Art
The Montclair Art Museum, NJ
February 4 - June 18, 2017
Press Release / Info
Montclair Art Museum will present Matisse and American Art, the first exhibition to examine this French master’s profound impact upon the development of American modern art from 1907 to the present. His art has provided a liberating model for American artists’ varied explorations of vibrant color, strong, fluid lines, and clear compositional structures in their pursuits of self-expression.
Featuring 65 paintings, archival objects, sculpture, prints, and works on paper, Matisse and American Art will juxtapose 19 works by Matisse with 44 works by American artists, including Max Weber, Alfred Maurer, Maurice Prendergast, Stuart Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Robert Motherwell, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Romare Bearden, John Baldessari, Sophie Matisse, Faith Ringgold, and Helen Frankenthaler. Matisse’s transformative impact on their works is revealed not only by their adaptations of his palette and pictorial structures but also through their choice and appropriation of his subject matter—still lifes, landscapes, figurative works, studio interiors, and portraits. While previous projects have illuminated Matisse’s relationship with postwar artists, this will be the first exhibition to expand Matisse’s impact beyond the typical focus upon the New York School by extending it back to the beginning of the 20th century and forward to the 21st.
The exhibition will open with an introductory section evoking a range of responses to the master, from the early 20th century study by his student Morgan Russell to Faith Ringgold’s late 20th century appropriation titled Matisse’s Model, with a fictional character based on the artist and other modern young women of color. The exhibition then proceeds with early 20th century explorations of the nude as seen in the work of Matisse’s students Max Weber and Sarah Stein, as well as William Zorach and Maurice Prendergast. The next section of the show addresses Matisse’s theme of the window as a metapho for the dialogue between the interior world of the artist and the external world of reality. An archival section featuring Matisse on the cover of Time magazine in 1930, as well as various exhibition catalogues and publications, will serve as an orientation to the history of the dissemination of Matisse’s influence. The final sections of the exhibition explore Matisse’s pervasive postwar impact on artists, especially in terms of the bold, simplified profiles and vibrant colors of his cut-outs. Works by Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Motherwell, Stuart Davis, Judy Pfaff, Romare Bearden, and the illustrator Eric Carle represent the wide-ranging responses to Matisse’s inventive “drawing with scissors.” The exhibition concludes with the work of Roy Lichtenstein, Tom Wesselman, Andy Warhol, Janet Taylor Pickett, and John Baldessari, who have appropriated and adapted Matisse’s classic themes of the dance, the studio, the nude, portraiture, and the goldfish bowl as varying approaches to his universal art and fame.
The exhibition is organized by Gail Stavitsky, MAM chief curator, with Dr. John Cauman and Lisa Mintz Messinger. It is complemented by a major scholarly catalogue, Matisse and American Art, and a concurrent exhibition of the Montclair Art Museum’s collection Inspired by Matisse: Selected Works from the Collection.