By Bernie Petit
Imagine sitting in your easy chair and taking in the work of renowned artist Henri Matisse.
That’s how comfortable you will be strolling through the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts’ exhibition “The Art Books of Henri Matisse,” which runs through Sept. 7, 2015.
Drawn from the Bank of America Collection, the exhibition features 80 framed original illustrations with text from four of Matisse’s most significant artist books.
“This is truly the first time we have decided to work with another entity, this one Bank of America, to bring to Charlotte a show that had in fact been curated by their motif, which is remarkably strong,” said Bechtler President and CEO John Boyer. “So we do see this as a real partnership.”
Widely regarded as one of the most important painters of the 20th century, Matisse (French, 1869-1954) was part of a generation of artists who recognized there was no material difference between painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking and, in this case, art books, and how they strike us, Boyer said.
During his 60-year career, Matisse created a body of work that comprised paintings, drawings, cut-outs and sculpture. Starting in the 1930s, he devoted much of his time to printmaking and book illustration, as livre d’artise’ (artist’s books) had become popular in France.
“It’s increasingly important, I think, for this community and beyond to recognize that artworks such as artist books and prints with the etchings and all of the rest are in no way of less importance because they come in a series,” Boyer said. “Audiences come to understand fully that these were very much intentional acts on the part of the artists.
“This was a form of expression that was critically important to great modernists.”
Matisse became enamored with this art form and created a dozen books, 11 of which were widely reproduced and one made exclusively for his family. Charlotte-based Bank of America owns four of Matisse’s books, which have been loaned to the Bechtler for this exhibition.
Those books are: Poesies de Stéhane Mallarmé (The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé), 1932; Pasiphaé—Chant de Minos (Les Crétois) (Pasiphaé-Song of Minos [The Cretans]), 1944; Jazz, 1947; and Poèmes de Charles d’Orléans (Poems of Charles d’Orléans), 1950.
“In one instance in particular, in Jazz, the entirety of the book is a dimension of Matisse,” Boyer said. “That is to say the images, the text, the very view of the world are an expression of him.”
In addition to the core group of Matisse works, a limited number of artists’ books from the Bechtler’s collection are also on view in the exhibition.
For more information on the exhibition, including museum hours and admission, visit www.bechtler.org.