Henri Matisse: The Essence of Line, Marlborough Fine Art - exhibition review
Le Grand Nu: Matisse's print works have the freshness and intimacy of a drawing
Henri Matisse (1867-1954) is celebrated for his radiant colour but the allure of his chromatic verve can obscure his equal mastery of line and tone, qualities that this 50-work show of his prints reveals in abundance.
Matisse was a prolific printmaker, and this mini-retrospective gathers works in several techniques, from etching and lithography to pochoir, a kind of stencil, from across his career. It’s a journey which follows his innovations in painting faithfully, from early modernist experiments such as in Le Grand Nu (1906) to the Jazz pochoirs of the late Forties, relating to his paper cutouts, which provide the show’s one colour burst.
A Parisian show last year focused on Matisse’s dramatically varied approach to a subject, from starkly reductive to almost overwhelmingly decorative. His lithographs of dancers from 1927 are an example: in one, the figure is voluminous, the room she stands in carefully described in soft tones as she looks into a mirror, while in another, she is sketched with startling economy, as Matisse fills the entire paper, leaving her thick legs descending from the sheet.
The purity of his line is remarkable: when using colour, he strove for harmony and balance. In many works here he achieves the same with only the most essential description.
Matisse: Nu Couche