Henri Matisse: Prints and Bronzes from the Etta and Claribel Cone Collection

  • Jan 17, 2008 – Mar 23, 2008
Installation view: Weatherspoon Art Museum, 2008.

To say that Matisse was one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century is to state a commonplace. Paintings and prints that “look like” Matisse can be found everywhere. A question not so easy to answer is: why does Matisse remain so very influential and popular? While we all have different tastes, the tools of the visual arts (color, line, subject matter) that Matisse used so exceptionally are key to the answer.

Color became a primary concern for Matisse when he first encountered Impressionism in the late 1890s. His passion for color led him to study Van Gogh, Cézanne and Gauguin (by 1900, though struggling financially, Matisse owned work by all three). From Van Gogh he learned about brilliant color; from Cézanne the way that empty space can enhance color; and from Gauguin the symbolic power of color. It was Matisse's ability to combine aspects of these and other diverse sources that led to the formation of his very personal style.

In terms of subject matter—'what' an artist depicts—Matisse's choices continue to appeal. He once famously said that he wanted his art to have the same effect on people as a nice comfortable chair for a businessman at the end of a hard day. He painted and drew still life, gardens, landscape and, of course, the nude, indulging his blatantly romantic armchair philosophy over and over with images that evoke the sensual pleasures of this world.

The Weatherspoon is fortunate to have a substantial collection of Matisse prints and bronzes. A selection of works is routinely on view for visitors to study his art and its influence, and simply to enjoy it as Matisse would have wished.


We have six galleries located on the first and second levels of the museum, view our gallery map.