Press release

Matisse’s genius expressed itself in every artistic genre, but none interested him more than the representation of the figure, which he explored in all experimental techniques throughout his entire career. This is the theme around which the exhibition at the Palazzo dei Diamanti is centred. Dedicated to this giant in the history of modern art, it follows his artistic development and at the same time, highlights the various connections between his paintings, sculptures and drawings.

With this exhibition, curated by Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, former deputy director of the Centre Pompidou and internationally recognized Matisse scholar, the Fondazione Ferrara Arte intends to provide a well-rounded but not predictable portrait of the French artist. The exhibition will showcase his skills as an alchemist of colour in addition to his considerable drawing and sculptural talents through a wide selection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and engravings generously loaned by museums and private collections from all over the world.

Welcoming the visitor is the delightful Self Portrait from 1900 (Paris, Centre Pompidou) together with works from his youthful period and expressive studies of the model. The revolutionary fauve period (1905-08) will be documented by dazzling paintings with touches of pure colour that give off the energy of the Mediterranean light (Portrait of André Derain, 1905, London, Tate), and also by the works influenced by tribal art and Cézanne’s paintings, like the bronze Reclining Nude (1906-07, Centre Pompidou) and the canvas Standing Nude (1907, Tate), both surprising for the articulation of the forms and the expressive dynamism.
The following section will bring the visitor before three key works from 1909, the bronze The Serpentine, the canvas Nude with a White Scarf from the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, and the Bather from the MoMA, this last piece, shaped by a mosaic of sinuous lines and bright colours, represents one of the highest achievements in Matisse’s research: the conquest of a idea able to produce an effect of absolute visual and emotional satiety.
A section of the exhibition will be dedicated to the portrait, and in particular, that phase of Matisse’s research during the First World War, in which he worked before models almost obsessively. In these works, he attempts to get to the essence of his subject, with surprising results. This can be seen in the bronze series Jeannette (1910-1913), where the elegant woman is gradually transformed into a primitive idol, as well as the representations of Lorette, in which the artist has captured on canvas the mysterious charm of his Italian model whom he painted regularly in 1916-17 (like The Two Sisters, 1917, Denver Art Museum, and Seated nude with back turned, c. 1917, Philadelphia Museum of Art).
A radical change is marked by the reclining figures, from the sensual nudes and the odalisques of the inter war years, set in the outdoors (Young Women in the Garden, 1919, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Musée des Beaux-Arts) or in exotic inventions that reflect the enchanting light of the French Riviera and the rediscovery of Ingres and Renoir. Two extraordinary works using the former ballerina and model, Henriette Darricarrère, as the model: the bronze Large Seated Nude (1925, Philadelphia Museum of Art), in which the majestic figure spreads its forms within the space, or the Odalisque with Grey Trousers (1927, Paris, Musée de l’Orangerie), in which she appears nestled in a sumptuous mosaic of decorative motifs.
The huge Nymph in the Forest (1935, Nice, Musée Matisse), a masterpiece like Still life with Sleeping Woman (1940, Washington, National Gallery of Art) and the magnificent drawings (Reclining Nude, 1938, MoMA; Woman in a Fishnet Dress, 1939, Basel, Fondation Beyeler) represent the new change in direction following the prestigious project for decorating the Barnes Foundation in the United States and the illustrations for Mallarmé’s book of poetry. His new muse, the Russian Lydia Delectorskaya, is described using a few marks in a space filled with light where her body, the vegetation and the furniture come together to make a simple and sublime arabesque.
The exhibition ends with the final chapter of our adventure, in which we will see the elderly artist’s amazing creative vitality and inexhaustible imagination: the studio interiors that are flooded with pure colour (like Young Woman in White on Red Background, 1946, Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts; Blue Interior with Two Girls, 1947, University of Iowa Museum of Art), acrobats and masks evoked by lines that dance across white backgrounds and the first experiments with the revolutionary techniques of the gouaches découpées for the prints in Jazz. In this spectacular artist’s book, an original in the history of art, these multicolour silhouettes of moving figures bring alive a kaleidoscope of “chromatic and rhythmic improvisations.”

MATISSE, LA FIGURA. La forza della linea, l’emozione del colore
Ferrara, Palazzo dei Diamanti, 22 February – 15 June 2014

Exhibition curated by Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, organized by Fondazione Ferrara Arte

Opening hours
Daily: 9:00-19:00
Open Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, April 25th, May 1st, and June 2nd

Information and Bookings
tel. 0532 244949

Media Contact
Studio ESSECI – Sergio Campagnolo, tel. 049 663499



Corso Ercole I d’Este 21, 44121 Ferrara
tel +39 0532 244949