Matisse as Printmaker
May 23, 2010
August 22, 2010
About the Exhibition
May 23, 2010 – August 22, 2010
The Blanton Museum of Art and The American Federation of Arts (AFA) are pleased to present Matisse as Printmaker: Works from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, on view May 23 – August 23, 2010. Comprised of 63 prints by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) ranging in date from 1900 to 1951, the exhibition is the first to be drawn entirely from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, and includes works bequeathed by the artist to his younger son Pierre, an eminent dealer of modern art.
Organized by Jay McKean Fisher (Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs, Baltimore Museum of Art), the works on view represent the extraordinary range of processes Matisse used to create his prints: etching, aquatint, monotype, lithography, woodcut and linoleum cut. With its rich variety of techniques and subject matter, Matisse as Printmaker sheds new light on an under-studied aspect of Matisse’s oeuvre and underscores the importance of printmaking as a means for the artist to produce repeated imagery.
Recognized foremost as a painter and sculptor, Henri Matisse was also deeply engaged in exploring other mediums and the unique possibilities they offered for creative expression. Matisse saw printmaking as an extension of drawing, which was integral to the whole of his art. As Jay Fisher writes in the exhibition’s catalogue, “Printmaking was Matisse’s primary means of demonstrating to his audience his working process, the character of his vision, and the way his drawing transformed what he observed.” Matisse’s involvement with printmaking was both intense and innovative as he moved from one technique to the next, adopting new approaches to reflect the evolution of his artistic ideas. Almost all of his prints involve repeated imagery, such as the development of a reclining or seated pose, the integration of models within interiors, the study of facial expressions and features, and the transformation of a subject from a straight representation to something more abstract or developed. For Matisse, printmaking captured the steps in a process of seeing that was unique to his artistic vision.
Printmaking for Matisse was also a practical means of disseminating his art among the many avid collectors of his work. Despite their relatively wide distribution, his prints are remarkable for the aura of intimacy and immediacy they communicate. Matisse was mostly faithful to the tradition of black-and-white prints, but he made two prints in color—both of which are included in the exhibition—as well as book illustrations in his last years. Moving from one medium to another—as single images or in books—Matisse made prints fairly consistently from 1900 until his death in 1954. During the course of his career, he produced more than 800 images apart from those in his illustrated books, often in editions of 25 or 50. This great profusion of graphic work expanded the reach of his art and has helped to augment his position as one of the preeminent artists of the twentieth century.
While Matisse was clearly deeply engaged in the practice of printmaking, most of the exhibitions and research on the artist’s work to date have focused on his paintings and sculpture. With its diverse selection of works from different periods in Matisse’s career, Matisse as Printmaker: Works from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation provides a comprehensive examination of the artist’s relationship with printmaking and the role it played in the evolution of his visual ideas. The exhibition advances the scholarship and public awareness of this underappreciated part of Matisse’s oeuvre, offering a persuasive argument that Matisse prints merit consideration not merely in relation to the artist’s paintings but in their own right.
As part of the exhibition’s many public programs, two special lectures have been developed:
Saturday, May 22 at 2 PM
Jay McKean Fisher, curator of Matisse as Printmaker and deputy director for curatorial affairs at The Baltimore Museum of Art, discusses the importance of printmaking to Matisse’s artistic development, in the context of his other work.
Saturday, June 12 at 2 PM
John Elderfield, Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art and Matisse expert, presents “Why Matisse Matters.”
Matisse as Printmaker is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation.
Major support for the exhibition at The Blanton is provided through a generous challenge grant from Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long and by RBC Wealth Management.
Support also is provided by Mr. and Mrs. Jack S. Blanton, Sr., Leslie and Jack Blanton, Jr., the Booth Heritage Foundation, Bruce Buckley and Mrs. Vincent Buckley, Sarah and Ernest Butler, Patricia and Dee Osborne, Eliza and Stuart Stedman, and the many other donors who contributed to meet the Long Challenge.