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World-first: Matisse exhibition marks Gallery of Modern Art's 5th anniversary
Henri Matisse / Grande odalisque à la culotte bayadère (Large odalisque in Bayadère culottes) 1925/ Collection: Département des estampes et de la photographie, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris / © Succession H Matisse.

BRISBANE.- Arts Minister Rachel Nolan opened Matisse: Drawing Life, an exclusive exhibition of Henri Matisse’s drawings and prints, showing at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art until 4 March 2012.

“The highlight of GoMA’s fifth anniversary celebrations, the exhibition brings together more than 300 works from international museums, the National Gallery of Australia, and private collections, including works never previously shown or reproduced,” Ms Nolan said.

“This comprehensive survey explores the extraordinary range and depth of Matisse’s graphic art, providing a new understanding of this great and influential artist.”

Ms Nolan said the exhibition was curated especially for Brisbane by Céline Chicha-Castex, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Prints, Bibliothèque nationale de France, and independent Paris-based curator Emilie Ovaere-Corthay in conjunction with Dr Miranda Wallace, the Queensland Art Gallery’s Curatorial Manager of International Art, Exhibitions and Research.

“Matisse: Drawing Life reveals how drawing was central to every aspect of the great artist’s practice,” she said.

“The works include early academic sketches and engravings that promise his later brilliance, through experiments with watercolour, ink and woodcuts to the vibrant paper cut-outs and simple brush-and-ink works of his final years.”

Ms Nolan said the seeds for Matisse: Drawing Life were planted following a major retrospective of the artist’s paintings organised by the Queensland Art Gallery and Art Exhibitions Australia in 1995.

“It was the artist’s grandson, Claude Duthuit, who at the time suggested an exhibition of Matisse’s drawings would complete the story started with that exhibition,” she said.

“Sadly, Claude Duthuit passed away in May 2011, but the current exhibition stands as a testament to his vision.

“This inspirational show is complemented by The Drawing Room, a large-scale drawing studio for visitors, a program of film documentaries, panels, tours and conversations delving into many aspects of the artist’s life and work. The popular Up Late program of evening viewings and live music will begin January 20.”

Events Queensland Chief Executive Officer John O'Sullivan said the exhibition was part of a dynamic and growing events calendar for Queensland.

“Queensland is cementing its reputation as an arts and cultural hub. Matisse: Drawing Life joins a number of exciting events for Brisbane, including the upcoming Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb at the Queensland Museum, the QPAC International Performance Series, Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado at the Queensland Art Gallery, the World Theatre Festival and the Australian Performing Arts Market,” said Mr O’Sullivan.

Queensland Art Gallery Director Tony Ellwood said the exhibition told the compelling story behind the artist regarded by many as having decisively changed the direction of art in the early 20th century.

“The exhibition is presented by the Queensland Art Gallery and Art Exhibitions Australia in partnership with the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris,” he said.

Matisse: Drawing Life features over 100 works from the Bibliothèque nationale de France and significant loans from the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum; the Musée Matisse, Nice; the Musée Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis; the Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

“Many people know Henri Matisse as the master of colour but this exhibition will reveal why he was also the master of line,” Mr Ellwood said. “Throughout his career, drawing underpinned all of his work, regardless of whether it was painting, sculpture or print. “The Drawing Room will add a unique interactive element to the exhibition and the celebration of drawing will extend to regional Queenslanders with Drawing Life for Kids on Tour: Celebrating Artists visiting over 50 venues in regional, remote and Indigenous communities.”

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