Matisse at the Art Institute: a Must See

This much talked about exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago opens Saturday, and it’s a must see if you have an art-loving bone in your body. The exhibit named “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” focuses its lens on the art produced within those dates, a four-and-a-half year period in which Matisse’s works of art are particularly noteworthy for being “strange and enigmactic.” Although of the 120 paintings present, some fall out of the timespan, the exhibit is a robust sample of a slice of this artist’s life.

Why is this moment in the artist’s development so provocative? Many critics believe that the World War greatly affected Matisse’s psyche, and that his contemplation of darker thoughts pervaded his work. Prior to and after this time, bright colors predominated Matisse’s paintings, like in such memorable works as La Raie verte (The Green Stripe) pictured below that was painted in 1905.  In comparison, a portrait done in this crucial time period (1916), Portrait de Sarah (Portrait of Sarah), is subdued with muted tones of greys and browns. While the work is clearly done by the same painter, the difference is obvious.

La Raie Verte (1905)

Portrait de Sarah (1916)

Matisse is considered one of the most influential painters of modern art, so for scholars of Matisse and casual art lovers alike, the exhibit is well worth your while to get a glimpse at this radical time in his work. The questions that arise about the meaning of war in the painter’s life are significant, and will undoubtedly lead to more dialogue in the future. The exhibit opens tomorrow to the public, and will be traveling to New York Museum of Modern art in July.


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