In Search of Matisse in Copenhagen and Oslo


Focus this autumn is on the French painter Matisse at Henie Onstad Art Center outside Oslo as well as at Ordrupgaard Museum outside Copenhagen.

Basis for the two exhibitions is, however, fundamentally different.

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter is launching a provenance project with vast cultural and informational significance for museum institutions, art history students and professionals in Scandinavia as well as a general audience. The exhibition In Search of Matisse is the first research project in Norway on the relationship between looting and art collecting during and after World War II, and the role of the market also in contemporary situations such as Bagdad in 2003 and the ongoing destruction by IS in Mosul.

In Copenhagen, on the other hand, the focus is on a period in Matisse’s life in which the artist directed his attention and creative motivation towards the North, in a series of black and white depictions of Eskimos, whose faces and mask art, he was introduced to by his son-in-law’s collection of inuit masks and the Danish polar explorer Knud Rasmussen’s books. The exhibition Matisse and The Eskimos draws attention to an overlooked niche in Matisse’s late work, in which, he increasingly simplifies and radicalizes his portraits and figurative representations and endows them with the monumentality of the mask.

Blue Dress in Ocher armchair
Blue Dress in Ocher armchair

The title of the exhibition in Oslo might give the impression that Henie Onstad Art Center will exhibit works by Matisse only, but there are only two works by the world famous French artist on display. The title refers to the story relating to the artworks’ ownership history (provenance) and comes in the wake of the fact that the Art Center in 2014 relinquished the painting Blue dress in ocher armchair to the heirs of the French Jewish art collector Paul Rosenberg. Where this painting is today is unknown to the Henie Onstad Foundation.

The exhibition is open September 11 to December 13.

The exhibition Matisse and The Eskimos at Ordrupgaard Museum exhibits works from the 1940s, and the theme os the artist’s interest for this ethnic group. This is an overlooked chapter in Matisse’s production, and is complemented by several reference works, including works by Césanne, Pissaro, Gauguin and Delacroix, who also were concerned by the so called exotic.

Philodendron noir et citrons
Philodendron noir et citrons

The exhibition is open through November 29.

In Search of Matisse in Copenhagen and Oslo, compiled by Tor Kjolberg