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Matisse exhibit unveils a sculptor behind painter

'I think people will come away with a different view of who Matisse was,' Dallas museum curator says.

January 19, 2007|Jamie Stengle | Associated Press

DALLAS — A new exhibit will focus on sculptures by Henri Matisse, the French artist best known for his vibrant paintings.

The exhibit "Matisse: Painter as Sculptor" showcases more than 150 works -- including more than 40 sculptures -- and gives a glimpse of how Matisse explored recurrent themes as he worked in mediums including sculpture, painting, sketches and even paper cutouts.

"It's almost as if you see his paintings and sculpture come together," said Dorothy Kosinski, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art.

The joint exhibition between the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center, which are next door to each other in downtown Dallas, will run Sunday through April 29.

"He's very often understood as a colorist and a painter's painter in a sense," said Nancy J. Troy, professor of art history at USC.

"In some ways, in the sort of public imagination of Matisse, we tend to forget how important sculpture is to him," Troy said.

Matisse would do several versions of the same idea in various mediums. The exhibition showcases that by displaying related works together.

The bronze sculpture "Reclining Nude I (Aurora)," for example, is displayed near the painting "Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra," both depicting a nude woman in the same pose.

"You see him working on his ideas," Kosinski said.

The show also gives examples of the interaction between artists. Matisse's sculpture called "The Serf" is flanked by a sculpture of the same model by Auguste Rodin.

"By contrast, the Rodin is more about a sort of classicism, the surface is much more refined," said Jay Fisher, deputy director for curatorial affairs at the Baltimore Museum of Art, a co-organizer of the exhibit with the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher.

Matisse's sculpture of the man, though, is not as worried about precise detail, Fisher said. "You can just feel it being made. You get the sense of him making it, molding it with his hands."

The exhibit will also feature works by artists such as Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas and Matisse's rival and friend, Pablo Picasso.

"I think people will come away with a different view of who Matisse was," Kosinski said.

At the Nasher Sculpture Center, the star of the show will be a series of four bronze reliefs called "The Backs," done over a period from 1909 to 1930. The first piece shows a realistic-looking human back, which progresses to an abstract depiction in the last piece.

" 'The Backs' are utterly incredible," said Raymond Nasher, founder of the Nasher Sculpture Center. "You can see it turning from the total figurative to the abstract."

Matisse died at the age of 84 in 1954.

The exhibit will be at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from June 10 to Sept. 2 and then move to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where it will be on display from Oct. 7 to Jan. 13, 2008.

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