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  • Matisse, Picasso, and the School of Paris Masterpieces
    November 1, 2004 RALEIGH, N.C.

    Henri Matisse, Purple Robe and Anemones, 1937, oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 23 3/4 in., The Baltimore Museum of Art, The Cone Collection, © 2004 Succession H. Matisse, Paris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    The North Carolina Museum of Art presents some of the nation’s finest works of modern art with Matisse, Picasso, and the School of Paris: Masterpieces from The Baltimore Museum of Art. The included works of art were carefully chosen for this show, creating a one-of-a-kind exhibition that features some of the world’s finest modern masterpieces. Many of the works selected for Matisse, Picasso, and the School of Paris rarely travel, and most have never before visited the Southeast.

    “This group of modern paintings, sculptures, and drawings represents the finest exhibition of this work ever shown in North Carolina or the Southeast,” said Museum Director Lawrence J. Wheeler. “It really is a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.”

    Matisse, Picasso, and the School of Paris explores the vibrant creativity of the artists who made Paris the center of modern art and culture from the late 19th century to the outbreak of the Second World War.

    The unique exhibition features selections from the Collection of Etta and Claribel Cone, the wealthy and adventurous sisters who acquired a vast collection of modern art, including over 400 works by Matisse and over 100 by Picasso. The Cone’s fortune derived in part from textile mills in the Carolinas. Their collection was bequeathed to The Baltimore Museum of Art, where it now resides.

    The exhibition features some of the finest works from the Cone Collection and gives star billing to Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, the preeminent masters of the 20th century. Matisse, Picasso, and the School of Paris features 35 paintings, sculptures, and drawings by the famous artists. Other artists featured in the exhibition include Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Bonnard, Monet, Rodin, Degas, Modigliani, Braque, Leger, and Giacometti, among many others.

    One of the highlights of the exhibition is Matisse’s ebullient Purple Robe and Anemones. The painting’s sensuous, vibrant colors and bold patterns eloquently testify to the artist’s instinctive use of color and almost musical artistic sensibility. Also included in the exhibition is Matisse’s famous Large Reclining Nude, which will be displayed with the well-known series of photographs the artist took to document the creation and evolution of the piece; several still lifes; and a selection of odalisque paintings and drawings. An impressive group of sculptures and drawings reveals that Matisse’s artistic genius found expression in other media as well.

    The exhibition features 16 works by Picasso, most created during the artist’s early years in Paris. The Cone sisters purchased many of these works directly from Picasso. These works have a distinctly personal, intimate quality and depict the artist himself, his friends and mistress, and the circus performers and actors who frequented the streets and bars of Picasso’s Montmartre neighborhood in Paris. One of these works, a drawing called Boy with Pipe, is a preparatory study for the painting of the same name that recently sold for a record $104 million. Also included is one of the master’s rare blue period paintings, Woman with Bangs.

    Another highlight, and one of the most celebrated sculptures of the modern era, is Degas’s charming ballerina, Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen. The bronze depicts 14-year-old Marie van Goethem, a student in the Paris Opera ballet corps, wearing a tulle skirt and satin hair ribbon. At once awkward and graceful, she stands somewhat inelegantly with feet apart, hands behind her back, and face raised. Although the sculpture was attacked by some contemporary critics for its uncompromising objectivity and naturalism, others recognized its vitality and modernity. Today it is ­regarded as an icon of modern sculpture—a favorite of ballerinas and non-dancers alike.

    In addition to these masterpieces, other works in the exhibition include Van Gogh’s Landscape with Figures, Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge (“Reflections on the Thames”), Cezanne’s Bathers, and Gauguin’s The Player Schneklud, among many others. Rounding out the exhibition is a group of striking surrealist works by Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and Andre Masson, the leading artistic exponents of the movement.

    The selections from the Cone Collection featured in Matisse, Picasso, and the School of Paris provide a brilliant glimpse at the beginnings of modern art and attest to the surprisingly avant-garde taste of the Cone sisters. The exhibition offers visitors a chance to come face-to-face with works by the foremost masters of the modern period—works that changed the course of art.

    Matisse, Picasso, and the School of Paris is presented by Progress Energy. Other sponsors include the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, the Cemala Foundation, The News and Observer, and NBC 17. The exhibition continues through January 16, 2005.