This article relates to the exhibition 'The Oasis of Matisse' which ran at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 2015. For current exhibitions in Amsterdam, search I amsterdam's cultural agenda.
Follow the grey lines
In the major exhibition The Oasis of Matisse, the Stedelijk connects the French master's creations to works by his contemporaries, teachers and followers, taken from the museum's permanent collection. You can see Matisse's development as an artist, put into context with works by other famous painters.
Works by artists including Malevich, Mondrian, Cézanne, Seurat, Kirchner, Picasso, Rothko, Van Gogh and Manet hang side by side with Matisse's art.
To simplify the 'find the painting' game a little, in each room Matisse's works will have a vertical grey line above them. Highly recommended for, for example, a usually-quiet Thursday evening at the Stedelijk: follow the grey line route through the exhibition, following in the footsteps of the artist and his stylistic development.
Matisse's still lifes can be recognised by the grey lines above the works.
The lending game
In the first Henri Matisse retrospective in 60 years, virtually all the French artist's major works from all over the world can be admired together at the Stedelijk. But how was the museum able to borrow the world-famous artworks for the exhibition? They are true masterpieces, from venues including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London. It's actually quite simple: a type of bartering. La perruche et la sirène (The Parakeet and the Mermaid, 1952-1953), from the Stedelijk's collection, was on tour prior to the exhibition and featured as one of the highlights in Matisse exhibitions in the aforementioned museums.
In exchange, the museums loaned their own Matisses to the Stedelijk Museum.
While the Stedelijk was being renovated it did very good business in this area. As there were no exhibitions held at the museum for an extended period, it was able to loan out its masterpieces left and right. This has borne fruit for The Oasis of Matisse, and the Stedelijk can also count on loans of masterpieces from famous international museums for future exhibitions.
Mondrian (left) and Matisse (View of Notre-Dame, 1914) both offer an abstract view of Paris, where they lived at the time.
Picasso & Matisse
Matisse painted Nature Morte à la Corbeille d'Oranges, still life with oranges, in 1912. When Picasso was sick in Paris, Matisse sent him a crate of oranges from the South of France. This became a tradition for Picasso's birthday. When the painting came onto the market again, Matisse wanted to acquire it for himself, but he turned out to be just too late.
Picasso himself had bought Matisse's painting.
Matisse appears to have cried tears of happiness. While the two great masters were often seen as rivals, their friendship remained undisputed. After the death of Matisse, Picasso did not paint for a year. To honour him, he created an Odalisque (an exotic, Eastern beauty) and said, "When Matisse died, he left me his Odalisques as a legacy".
Nature Morte à la Corbeille d’Oranges - Henri Matisse (1912)
Earlier in his career Henri Matisse used clippings as a tool to allow him to make changes in composition. He shuffled his cut-out shapes around for as long as it took to find the right composition. If the artist had had to do this by painting and repainting the same canvas, it would have been an incredibly time-consuming process. When Matisse's poor health meant that he needed to use a wheelchair, he exchanged his paintbrush for a pair of scissors because he was no longer able to stand at his easel for long periods of time. Matisse's assistants helped him to paint the paper and pinned the figures of gouache on paper, cut out by Matisse, to the wall according to his directions.
La perruche et la sirène is one of the largest cut-out works he made. It is a strong example of how Matisse flourished even at such a late stage in his career – he was then already in his eighties.
A graceful mermaid rises amid Matisse's characteristic algae-like leaves, observed by a sturdy parakeet. There are apparently more than seventeen different shades of orange used in his cut-outs; there are six in this dynamic work alone. There are also geometric forms to discover in this work, namely two triangles.
The upper hall of the Stedelijk Museum, furnished in exactly the same way as Henri Matisse's studio, with La perruche et la sirène at centre stage.
Daniel Buren created Kaleidoscope for the Stedelijk in 1976, and the work has been installed around the museum's historic staircase especially for the exhibition. It is an homage to Matisse and consists of 52 fillings for the 'spandrels' in the architecture (triangular shapes alongside the round shapes above the doorway and in front of the glass windows above the old entrance).
The artist used exactly the same colours as those in La perruche et la sirène, namely: yellow, light green, red, purple, orange, dark green and blue.
He did this precisely the same number of times that each colour appears in Matisse's world-famous cut-out (4 x yellow, 4 x light green, 6 x red, 6 x purple, 10 x orange, 10 x dark green and 12 x blue).
Kaleidoscope - Daniel Buren (1976)