Matisse: The Red Studio

Museum of Modern Art. May 2022. 224p. ISBN 9781633451322. $55. FINE ARTS
The creation of the 1911 painting The Red Studio coincided with several events in the life of its maker, Henri Matisse (1869–1954): a move to a suburb of Paris and to a new studio, and a series of commissions by Sergei Shchukin, with whom the artist shared an interest in textiles and decoration. Bathed in Venetian red and exhibiting a “radical flatness,” The Red Studio’s extraordinary tableau depicts 11 identifiable Matisse paintings and sculptures, arrayed in his new studio. Curators Temkin (MoMA) and Aagesen (Statens Museum, Copenhagen) explore the histories of those works, the significance of The Red Studio in Matisse’s career and 20th-century art, and the journey of the painting, which introduced Matisse and modernism to a wider audience. The painting traveled to the 1912 Grafton Galleries exhibition, the 1913 Armory Show in New York City, London’s Gargoyle Club (where artists mingled with moneyed high society in the 1920s), and finally to MoMA (its permanent home) in 1949. This compelling narrative is amplified by the book’s abundant high-quality reproductions, archival photos, contemporary accounts of visits to Matisse’s studio, and recent high-tech imaging of the painting.
VERDICT A fascinating, well-documented study of Matisse’s artistic vision, and its introduction to popular audiences, via an iconic painting.
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