July 18–October 11, 2010
In the time between Henri Matisse's (1869–1954) return from Morocco in 1913 and his departure for Nice in 1917, the artist produced some of the most demanding, experimental, and enigmatic works of his career—paintings that are abstracted and rigorously purged of descriptive detail, geometric and sharply composed, and dominated by shades of black and gray. Works from this period have typically been treated as unrelated to one another, as an aberration within the artist's development, or as a response to Cubism or World War I. Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917 moves beyond the surface of these paintings to examine their physical production and the essential context of Matisse's studio practice. Through this shift of focus, the exhibition reveals deep connections among these works and demonstrates their critical role in the artist's development at this time. Matisse himself acknowledged near the end of his life the significance of this period when he identified two works—Bathers by a River (1909–10, 1913, 1916–17) and The Moroccans (1915–16)—as among his most "pivotal." The importance of this moment resides not only in the formal qualities of the paintings but also in the physical nature of the pictures, each bearing the history of its manufacture. The exhibition includes approximately 120 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints, primarily from the years of 1913–17, in the first sustained examination devoted to the work of this important period.