At the Center Pompidou, Matisse open book

There are already some who are choosy: still Matisse at the Center Pompidou? It is true that at least two exhibitions followed: in 1993, under the leadership of Isabelle Monod-Fontaine and Dominique Fourcade, dazzling, but limited to the years 1904-1917; in 2012, when Cécile Debray had chosen to juxtapose pairs and series.

“There are infinitely fewer exhibitions of Matisse than of his friend and rival Picasso! “, half joking, Aurélie Verdier, the curator of the current exhibition, which this time has a retrospective character, embracing the entire career of the artist.

For those in charge of the institution, it was clearly a question of creating a “blockbuster”, of increasing the number of admissions: apart from Picasso, among his companions, neither Braque nor Léger aroused such enthusiasm among the great. public. With 734,896 visitors, the 1993 exhibition was the second in terms of popularity since the opening of the Center Pompidou.

Read the analysis (in 2018): Museums are snapping up Picasso

The pandemic has changed that. Fortunately, he had been asked to be modest in his requests for loans, avoiding Russian loans, too expensive, or American. This certainly deprives us of certain masterpieces, especially from the Fauve period, but in any event, in fine, the paintings could not have come. And the constraint allowed him to unearth works that were rarely shown, and first and foremost those from the Center Pompidou: around a hundred pieces, out of the two hundred and fifty exhibited; we didn’t know we were so rich.

Read the story (in “M”): Matisse and his “Aubergine Interior”: an itinerary of a little-known masterpiece

Finally, Aurélie Verdier had other ambitions than to do an exhibition-show. She insisted on inscribing hers under the sign of literature, hence the title, “Matisse, like a novel”. It is inspired by Henri Matisse, novel, by Louis Aragon, published by Gallimard in 1971. But other writers or critics are summoned to the nine rooms of the exhibition, including Matisse himself, who, even if he affirmed that a painter had to cut himself language, proved to be a great letter-writer. And in love with books, which he sometimes illustrates with, says Aurélie Verdier, “A very personal understanding: sometimes he is totally inspired by it, thus the poetry of Mallarmé, sometimes, like theOdysseus of Joyce, he makes no reference to the text ”.

Rigging wise, but held

The visitor will find paintings, sculptures, drawings aligned in chronological order in a wise hanging, perhaps too much, but held. With, at the beginning, Paul Cézanne. It is one of his paintings of “bathers” which opens the exhibition. It belonged to Matisse, who, says the commissioner, has it “Discovered at Vollard in 1899, and, in spite of then reduced means, bought it. He will watch it daily until 1936, when he donates it to the curator of the Petit Palais, Raymond Escholier. It was a compass for him. ” A compass ? Yes because “If Cézanne is right, I’m right”, said Matisse. Like him, he was on paths no one else had taken before.

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