The enduring legacy of Henri Matisse

In 1912, the founder of The Barnes Foundation – Albert Barnes – bought his first works by Matisse: The Sea Seen from Collioure (1906) and Dishes and Melon (1906-7); this would be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with Matisse’s work.

In 1930, Barnes invited Matisse to paint a triptych mural over the of the arches at the foundation’s center in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania.

From 13 – 15 October this year, The Barnes Foundation will be bringing scholars together for a conference, discussing Matisse’s enduring legacy in art history, and a number of other topics including his love of non-Western art.

The conference’s organiser, Sylvie Patry, the Barnes’s deputy director and chief curator said, “Our goal is to assess the state of our knowledge on Matisse today and to outline what could be done next in terms of future study, research, exhibitions, and collections. I think it is always fascinating for the general public to understand that even with such a famous artist like Matisse, scholars always find new ways to look at his work.”

It is always fascinating for the general public to understand that even with such a famous artist like Matisse, scholars always find new ways to look at his work…

The triptych in the Barne’s foundation reinvigorated both the foundation’s interior decor and Matisse’s career. As Yves-Alan Bois, editor if Matisse in the Barnes Foundation says, “In the Nice period, [Matisse] was very frustrated, because he had been surpassed by Picasso as a champion of the avant-garde, and so he retreated,” Bois says. “The end of the 1920s was a difficult period for him. He was bored to death by his Odalisque paintings, even though they were very successful on the market. When the Barnes commission arrives, he is offered a great surface to decorate and suddenly he is plunged back into his youth.”

He continued: “His sketches for The Dance are extraordinary because they are just a few strokes, there is absolutely no description, they’re just schematic indications of the movement of the dancer. He realizes he doesn’t have to be so guarded. In the early 1930s there is definitely a change in the way he understands drawing and painting and he starts to value work that is not completely controlled.”