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Matisse - A Second Life at Louisiana Museum
Henri Matisse, Interior in Yellow and Blue, 1946.

HUMLEBAEK, DENMARK.-The Louisiana Museum of Modern Art presents Matisse – A Second Life, on view through December 4, 2005. The exhibition, which presents a new and original approach to Matisse’s oeuvre and turns the focus on the late works, has been organized by Louisiana in collaboration with the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris. The curator of the exhibition is Hanne Finsen – the internationally acknowledged Matisse expert and former director of the Ordrupgaard Collection in Denmark.

“Une seconde vie”, a second life, was what Henri Matisse called the last fourteen years of his life, the time from his serious operation in 1941 until his death in the autumn of 1954. For Matisse these years were a great gift: he felt that the operation gave him life again, and despite frail health and advanced age his last years were characterized by immense energy and productivity. This unexpected new lease of life led to an extraordinary burst of expression, the culmination of half a century of work, but also a radical renewal.

Louisiana’s exhibition also tells the story – with some 150 works from a wide range of museums and private collections abroad – of a significant friendship. In the years 1941-1954 Matisse engaged in a unique correspondence with the French satirical draughtsman and writer André Rouveyre (1879-1962), in which his ongoing production and innovation are reflected and refracted. In 2001 Hanne Finsen edited the whole of this extensive correspondence for the prestigious French publisher Flammarion. Matisse’s letters in the correspondence are today in the Royal Library in Copenhagen, and it is this milestone publication that forms the backbone for the selection of works in the exhibition and gives it a precise, unique idea.

Matisse and Rouveyre met as young students at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris at the end of the 1890s, but their lives quickly became very different, and their paths diverged to a great extent over the subsequent years. Only when they coincidentally met again after Matisse’s operation did their close friendship develop. Despite the conspicuous differences between them, Rouveyre came to follow Matisse’s working process at close quarters. For Matisse, Rouveyre was an artist with whom he could discuss professional matters, someone who could follow and understand his thinking. To ensure the calm that was so necessary to Matisse’s work, their conversations usually took place by letter – even at one point when they both lived at Vence, a few hundred metres from each other.

The unique correspondence is typified by total intimacy, irresistible humour and warmth, and speaks both of everyday life and the work that is in progress. The correspondence, which also stands out with its abundance of drawings and sketches by Matisse, brings us close to one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. The idea of the exhibition is to present the works mentioned in tandem with the reflections that bear them up. It thus covers all facets of Matisse’s oeuvre: paintings, illustrated books, drawings, tapestries and a selection of the coloured paper collages – both small and very large.

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