Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Look!  That’s an interesting Diebenkorn.

Oh, gee! it’s a Matisse. French Window at Collioure (1914).

That is not the only surprise at  the Baltimore Museum of Arts’ Matisse/ Diebenkorn (Jan. 29, 2017), where the works of the two artists are interspersed throughout.

The first Matisse that Diebenkorn saw  was at a luncheon at the home of the Steins in California.  Matisse’s portrait Sarah Stein (1916), is the starting point for this exhibition.

It was love at first sight, but the true connection developed later when Diebenkorn was stationed at Quantico and visited the Phillips Gallery, the National Gallery of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art. 

The exhibit contains  36 paintings and drawings by Matisse and 56 by Diebenkorn, The journey follows the chronology of Diebenkorn’s career from representational paintings to abstract and then back to conceptual art.  It ends with his most celebrated Ocean Park series.

The works are arranged  so one can  draw one’s own conclusions about their relationships. One suggested way is to select a favorite piece in each gallery and work around it to see the interplay of ideas.  

My own favorite work is Matisse’s View of Notre Dame (1914), at the midpoint of the show.  One can analyze it for color and form, but this work is so much more then a dissection of its parts.   

 While they never met in real life, Diebenkorn’s admiration of  Matisse spanned his career.  The exhibit includes works  that Diebenkorn saw at Matisse exhibits in his lifetime and  which continued to inform his work.

It is worth noting that Diebenkorn  did not simply borrow techniques from Matisse, but rather than he let Matisse’s thoughts take root.  On  display throughout the galleries, are cases featuring over 40 volumes that he owned and studied about Matisse.

 Matisse of course influenced many artists and Diebenkorn was influenced by others than Matisse.  An interesting conversational point was that that Matisse at the end of the exhibit might not have been a finished work. When one looks at the influence he had on subsequent modern artists, not only Diebenkorn, it is clear that his true artistic vision which inspired them, is part of his great unfinished legacy.