Matisse: Drawing Life at the Gallery of Modern Art

Matisse: Drawing Life Exhibition
Matisse: Drawing Life Exhibition

Over my Christmas break I went to see the Matisse: Drawing Life exhibition at GoMA which didn’t feature his colorful and bold paintings but instead displayed his simple black and white sketches created during his artistic career.

I’ll admit that my art knowledge about Matisse is pretty slim so it was interesting to go and learn more about him. While there were only a few minor paintings within the collection, I think his sketches reflect a lot about his interests and the processes behind his paintings.

Matisse: Drawing Life - Henri Matisse gravant (Henri Matisse etching), 1900-03
Henri Matisse gravant (Henri Matisse etching), 1900-03
Matisse: Drawing Life - Primavera (Spring), 1938
Primavera (Spring), 1938 – Apart from his sketches, Matisse also liked to create etchings and screen prints

His sketches formed part of his daily warm up, ranging from simple sketches to complex drawings for planned paintings. He often did sketches of family and friends while also having a few muses over the years. It’s amazing that despite their simplicity, particular traits of people were quite easily identifable.

Matisse: Drawing Life - La pleureuse, 1900-1903
La pleureuse, 1900-1903
Matisse: Drawing Life - La pompadour, 1951
La pompadour, 1951
Matisse: Drawing Life - Greta Prozor, 1916
Greta Prozor, 1916 – The final painting of Greta Prozor was very different from this abstract crayon sketch

The themes of his drawings are quite interesting to follow through the exhibition. Starting out with traditional nude studies at art school before developing his quick minimalist sketches, his fasination with the Odalisque and a dip into abstract. Later on his drawings became very mythology inspired. The final rooms of the exhibition displayed some of his final personal projects including his some of his cut-out images and the work he did for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (Chapel of the Rosary).

Matisse: Drawing Life - The plumed hat, 1919
The plumed hat, 1919
Matisse: Drawing Life - Grande Odalisque a la Culotte Bayadere, 1925
Grande Odalisque a la Culotte Bayadere, 1925
Matisse: Drawing Life - Fee au Chapeau de Clarte (Fairy with the cap of light), 1933
Fee au Chapeau de Clarte (Fairy with the cap of light), 1933

Something I haven’t seen similar to at a GoMA exhibition is “The Drawing Room”, which was placed at the exit of the exhibition. Set up like a drawing studio with sculptures, flowers, vases and furniture, people were encouraged to draw still lifes of their surroundings like Matisse would do in his own studio. There was even a violionist playing to get people in the artistic mood! It seemed to work because to my surprise, lots of people were in the room drawing.

Matisse: Drawing Life - Cafe at the end of the exhibition
Cafe at the end of the exhibition
Matisse: Drawing Life - Entrance to the Drawing Room
Entrance to the Drawing Room
Matisse: Drawing Life - People drawing still lifes of the surroundings
People drawing still lifes of the surroundings
Matisse: Drawing Life - Picture from GoMA website showing the drawing tablets available
Picture from GoMA website showing the drawing tablets available and the violionist playing in the background

I think this is a great exhibition for GoMA and I hope you all can go and see it for yourselves. The Matisse: Drawing Life exhibition is open till  the 4th of March. You can read more about Matisse’s drawings and paintings on the artist’s website.

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