Last Thursday, I treated myself to an exhibition of Henri Matisse prints in New York City: "MATISSE: The Essence of Line, Selected Prints: 1900-1950" at the Marlborough Gallery.

As I do not usually handle multiples (art works normally printed on paper), it was fascinating to learn of Matisse’s important contribution to the field of graphic art.  His formidable oil paintings are, of course, very well known, however, this artist’s contribution to printmaking, which spanned half a century, is definitely an understudied aspect of his oeuvre.

The French artist Henri Matisse was born in 1869, and was originally trained in the Realist and Symbolist styles.  This would dramatically change during his 60 years of creativity, during which he expressed himself in painting, sculpture, and printmaking.  .  The subjects were nudes, figures in landscapes, portraits, and interior views— the usual fare.  

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What made him different, in fact, radical, was his use of vivid color and overstated form to express feeling.  In this way he became one of the 20th century’s most significant artists.

The show concentrates on the artist’s printmaking craft and creative development from 1900 to 1950; the message being that Matisse was a Modernist, always ahead of his time.  Etchings, drypoints, woodcuts, lithographs, linoleum carvings, and stencil designs are included and the transformation from straight representation to something more abstract is clear.  The greatness of Henri Matisse is once again affirmed.