The Oasis of Matisse is the largest-ever retrospective of work by Henri Matisse (1869-1954) to be shown in the Netherlands. The exhibition traces the multi-sided talent and artistic development of Matisse from his early work through to the dazzling cut-outs of his later years.
When I studied textiles at Goldsmiths in the eighties, Matisse’s work was very much looked down upon as merely decorative and lacking content and depth. Many textile students were accused of ripping-off his line drawings and two dimensional patterns in an attempt to cover up their lack of talent. Sexism was rife in those days, the largely male-dominated fine art department looked down on its poor, female cousins in the textile department. I admit to joining the anti-Matisse brigade in an attempt to appear cool and superior to artists who were only capable of making decorative pieces. Through the years though, I’ve mellowed and on Friday at the opening day of his retrospective in het Stedelijk, my soul soared with Matisse’s in his delight of pattern and colour. I felt emboldened by his refusal to give in to negativity and the physical restraints of illness and old age.
The exhibition comprises two parts. On the ground floor Matisse’s work is placed in direct dialogue with notable works by van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne, Delauney, Chagall, Sluiters and many others. The top floor is devoted to his later cut-outs which he created when he was confined by illness at home. I particularly love his monumental cut-out piece, The Parakeet and the Mermaid.
Matisse has pinned cut-outs all over the walls of his home. When he opens a window, the shapes tremble in the breeze. Matisse says: “I have made a little garden around me, where I can walk.”
On the mezzanine floor there’s a workshop area where you can have a go at creating cut-out pictures yourself. Suitable for children aged 8 to 88 years. :)
The exhibition at the Stedelijk runs until August 16th 2015. Timed entry possible with pre-booked, online tickets. Entry fee, 20 euros or supplement to Museum Card, 5 euros. DO NOT MISS!