Organized by the American Federation of the Arts and the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation, this exhibition completed a national tour in 2011 that was so critically acclaimed (according to The Washington Times, it “refreshed the typical view of Matisse”) that three more venues were added; the Cornell is one of them.
The exhibition is drawn from the collection of Matisse’s son Pierre and includes more than sixty works which illustrate every printmaking medium the artist utilized (etchings, monotypes, aquatints, lithographs, linocuts in black and white and two-color prints). Together, they showcase the extraordinary range of Matisse's printmaking techniques and subjects and provide a rich examination of an understudied part of his oeuvre.
Recognized foremost as a painter and sculptor, Matisse (1869–1954) was also deeply engaged throughout his career in exploring other mediums and the unique possiblities they offered for creative expression. Matisse saw printmaking as an extension of drawing, which was integral to the whole of his art. As Guest Curator Jay Fisher writes in the exhibition's catalogue, "Printmaking was Matisse's primary means of demonstrating to his audience his working process, the character of his vision, and the way his drawing transformed what he observed." Printmaking captured the phases of Matisse's artistic process—a process that resulted in a refined image of his subject.
With its diverse selection of works from different periods in Matisse's career, Matisse as Printmaker: Works from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation provides a comprehensive examination of the artist's relationship with the printmaking medium and the role it played in the evolution of his visual ideas. The exhibition offers a persuasive argument that Matisse's prints merit appreciation and consideration not only in relation to his painting but in their own right.