MATISSE'S MASTERPIECES AND MATT SAUNDERS WITH ERIK WENZELby Erik WenzelThe Art Institute of Chicago111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603March 20, 2010 - June 20, 2010“Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913 – 1917” at the Art Institute of Chicago centers around Bathers By A River (1909 – 17), a masterpiece painting in the museum’s collection. The show focuses on a period of five years in the artist’s life filled with experimentation and exploration of what he called the “methods of modern construction,” a phrase repeated ad infinitum throughout the exhibition’s wall texts. The dates of 1913 – 17 seem odd because the timeline of the exhibition begins with 1907 and traces Matisse’s career from there.
As a major exhibition dedicated to a modern master, it is standard fare. There are the obligatory high tech scans and analyses of works, along with computer-enhanced period photographs meant to shed new light on the artist’s process. These kinds of procedures are par for the course these days. Faced with the threat of popular culture, all things educational have to scramble in order to attract the public. Just look at the Discovery Channel and the Museum of Science and Industry. Thankfully such elements in “Radical Invention” are relatively unobtrusive. The interactive stations are off in a room before you enter the exhibition. Perhaps this could threaten to overshadow what is in the show itself, but everyone entering seemed to be passing it by in favor of the main attraction.
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Bathers by a River, 1909–10, 1913, 1916–17. Oil on canvas, 260 x 392 cm (102 1/2 x 154 3/16 in.) The Art Institute of Chicago, Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1953.158. © 2010 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.