The Oasis of Matisse

The Oasis of Matisse

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Henri Matisse, The Parakeet and the Mermaid, 1952–53. Collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, acquired with the generous support of the Vereniging Rembrandt and the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds, 1967. © Succession H. Matisse, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2014.

March 28, 2015

The Oasis of Matisse
March 27–August 16, 2015

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam 
Museumplein 10 
The Netherlands

With over 100 works on loan from more than 35 leading international museums, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presents the most comprehensive survey of Matisse ever shown in the Netherlands. Covering over 21,500 square feet, The Oasis of Matisse is also one of the largest-ever exhibitions in the Stedelijk’s history.

Beatrix Ruf, director of the Stedelijk Museum, says: “The Stedelijk has conceived a unique exhibition concept for this survey by enriching the permanent collection on the ground floor with a selection of Matisse’s classic pieces, creating surprising combinations with the work of his contemporaries, teachers, and followers. In this way, we show the work of one of the most important artists of the twentieth century as well as other artists in a new light, and one can encounter Matisse’s art at every stage of his artistic development. These are the exhibition formats we aspire to—not only presenting young artists like Ed Atkins and Tino Sehgal but also shining new light on well-known masters, and opening up the magnificent collection of the Stedelijk Museum to new interpretations.”

Bart Rutten, head of collections at the Stedelijk: “Comparing and contrasting Matisse’s work with pieces in the Stedelijk collection not only allows us to see the collection afresh, but also offers remarkable new insights into one of the world’s most exhibited, researched, and written-about artists. When experienced in conversation with icons from our collection, lesser-known facets of Matisse’s work are revealed. For instance, the Expressionists drew heavily on the Fauves—seen beside Kirchner, you realize the rawness Matisse’s work has. And seeing how, in 1914, Matisse and Mondrian were both pushing towards abstraction, one witnesses two artists offering a very different, singular interpretation. Although Matisse’s work contained all the ingredients, he never embraced abstraction in its totality. For Matisse, the connection with reality was simply too compelling.”

The journey through the collection on the ground floor is a prelude to the later work of Matisse on the top floor. There, the presentation focuses on the paper cut-out The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952–53), from the Stedelijk collection. This perennial public favorite is displayed alongside several of the artist’s other monumental cut-outs, including Memory of Oceania from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Snail from the collection of Tate Modern, London, and The Sheaf from the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles. The presentation also features rarely shown textile and stained glass artworks of Matisse.

Rutten says, “This year, our Parakeet has been one of the highlights in major Matisse exhibitions in London and New York. And there, too, the work has shown its remarkable ability to capture visitors’ hearts. It is wonderful to now have the opportunity to see Matisse’s cut-outs in the context that he intended, as Matisse also employed the cut-outs in designs for rugs, stained glass in the Vence Chapel, and beautiful chasubles.”

As one of the founders of modern art, Henri Matisse (1868–1954) painted some of the most discussed and admired artworks of the first half of the 20th century. Favorite subjects include interiors with Eastern nudes, colorful fabrics, carpets, potted plants, and idyllic landscapes, inspired by travels to Algeria, Morocco, Nice, and Tahiti. In these places Matisse found a paradise, which he captures in undulating lines and solid areas of color: “The Oasis of Matisse.”

Matisse later became an internationally celebrated artist. So it was all the more astonishing when, at the end of his life, he set off in an entirely new direction to make monumental, ornament-like cut-outs. But in surveying Matisse’s oeuvre, it is clear that from his earliest modern works until his death that he sought to evoke a bright, joyous simplicity with the minimum of means.

Matisse was so dazzled by the overwhelming nature he experienced in Tahiti that at first he could find no fitting visual expression for it. Fifteen years later, his impressions of the oceanic paradise finally emerged in large works such as Océanie, la mer and Océanie, le ciel, and Polynésie, la mer and Polynésie, le ciel, executed both as paper cut-outs and as screen-prints on linen. The underwater plants that appear in The Parakeet and the Mermaid also feature in these works of all his cut-outs. Matisse worked longest on The Parakeet, a work he also considered one of his most successful. When confined to a wheelchair, Matisse called it “a little garden all around me where I can walk.”

Matisse’s cut-outs are not restricted to paintings, drawings, and sculpture; they also serve as a basis for monumental interior decorations with stained glass, tile tableaux, wall coverings, and the world-famous book, Jazz. By working in a wide spectrum of disciplines and mediums, Matisse strove to make his work accessible to a broad public, although remained committed to creating works in edition.

The Stedelijk is publishing a richly illustrated catalogue on the occasion of the exhibition. The publication contains a foreword by Stedelijk director Beatrix Ruf, an introduction by Bart Rutten and Geurt Imanse, and essays by Maurice Rummens and Patrice Deparpe, director of the Musée Matisse Le Cateau-Cambrésis.

The exhibition is made possible with the support of the Turing Foundation, BankGiro Loterij, Fonds 21, Mondrian Fund, AON Corporate Solutions, Stichting Zabawas, K.F. Hein Fonds, principal sponsor Rabobank Amsterdam, and the benefactors of the Stedelijk Museum Fonds. 

The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam presents The Oasis of Matisse
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March 28, 2015

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