“MATISSE DRAWINGS: CURATED BY ELLSWORTH KELLY” BEGINS INTERNATIONAL TOUR ORGANIZED BY THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF ARTS
Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection will begin its international tour in June 2016 at the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, NC.
New York, NY, June 2016—Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection provides the unique opportunity to view the work of a modern master through the eyes of one of the greatest abstract artists of the twentieth century. With a selection of 45 works, Ellsworth Kelly surveys Henri Matisse’s drawings from 1900 through 1950—from sketches to finished pieces—and reveals Matisse’s process and creativity. As a companion to Matisse Drawings, a selection of nine of Kelly’s large-scale botanical prints, Plant Lithographs by Ellsworth Kelly, 1964–1966, will be on view in a separate gallery. As Kelly reflects on Matisse’s and his own explorations of line, the coupling suggests both the sympathies and distinct differences between the two artists.
Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in collaboration with The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. The exhibition was presented at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (August–December 2014), and will begin its tour at the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina (June 25–September 18, 2016), and continue to the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York (October 23, 2016–January 29, 2017), the Audain Art Museum, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada (February 24–May 21, 2017), and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, Michigan (November 18, 2017–February 18, 2018).
Matisse drew constantly throughout his life. With a deceptively simple line, he conveyed shape, volume, and composition, and expressed emotion. His direct and elegant renderings have inspired Kelly as well as countless others. In an interview with John Stomberg (reproduced in the catalogue that accompanies the exhibition), Kelly stated, “Picasso made me want to paint, but Matisse drawings made me want to draw.”
For Matisse Drawings, Kelly made a discerning selection of both exemplary drawings and works that reflect Matisse’s drawing process. Included are studies of body movements, repeated views of a single detail, and fully realized renderings, as well as sketches related to major works, such as The Dance (1931). Selected from the collection of The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, many of these drawings have rarely, if ever, been displayed in public.
Kelly’s exhibition design places Matisse’s drawings in a single row, evenly spaced, with identical off-white mats and pale wooden frames, and without wall labels. Reflecting on Kelly’s installation in the accompanying catalogue, John Stomberg states, “While every Matisse drawing was shown to its best advantage, Kelly’s aesthetic added dramatically to the experience of the exhibition. Viewers walked through an Ellsworth Kelly composition to see Henri Matisse drawings.” This minimalist presentation allows the works to be viewed without distraction.
This is echoed in the accompanying display of works from Kelly’s series Suite of Plant Lithographs (1965–66). In 1969, Kelly stated: “The plant drawings… are exact observations of the form of the leaf or flower or fruit seen. Nothing is changed or added: no shading, no surface making. They are not an approximation of the thing seen nor are they a personal expression of an abstraction.… My lesson was to see objectively to erase all “meaning” of the thing seen. Then only, could the real meaning of it be understood and felt.”
Realized in 2014, when Kelly was 91 years old, Matisse Drawings was one of his last projects. Although the artists never met, comparisons have been drawn between the two. After Kelly’s death in December 2015, the art critic Jerry Saltz described him as “the artist I now think of as the American Matisse.”
One of the most important practitioners of abstract art in the United States, American artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) gained an international reputation by the early 1950s. Over the course of six decades, he created an extraordinary body of work comprising abstract painting and sculpture, as well as figurative drawings and prints. Kelly’s work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2002), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1998), the Guggenheim Museum (1996), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1982).
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in association with the American Federation of Arts. It features a new interview with Kelly and reproductions of all of the works in the exhibition.
Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in collaboration with The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation.
The exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust and The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. Additional support provided by the JFM Foundation, and Mrs. Donald M. Cox.
About the American Federation of Arts
The American Federation of Arts is the leader in traveling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit organization founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs. For more information about the AFA, visit www.afaweb.org.
About the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum aims to spark intellectual curiosity and ignite a lasting passion for learning and creativity through direct engagement with art and material culture. Founded in 1876, MHCAM stewards, displays, and interprets a permanent collection of over 24,000 objects and generates thought-provoking exhibitions, publications, and programs.
Follow the AFA on Facebook (American Federation of Arts), Instagram, and Twitter (@AmFedArts) or use #MatisseDrawings to learn more about the exhibition.