Wednesday, May 4, 2016


The Baltimore Museum of Art: October 23, 2016-January 29, 2017

 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: March 11-May 29, 2017

Featuring two of the Bay Area’s artistic heroes, Matisse/Diebenkorn will be the first major exhibition to explore the profound inspiration Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) discovered in the work of French modernist Henri Matisse (1869-1954). On view at SFMOMA from March 11 through May 29, 2017 after its initial presentation at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the expanded San Francisco exhibition will feature approximately 100 objects—40 paintings and drawings by Matisse and 60 paintings and drawings by Diebenkorn—from museums and private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Following the trajectory of Diebenkorn’s career, the exhibition will illuminate how this influence evolved over time through different pairings and groupings of both artists’ work. As a Stanford University art student in 1943, Diebenkorn first saw the work of Matisse at the Palo Alto home of Sarah Stein, one of the French painter’s earliest champions. 

While stationed at Quantico, Virginia, during World War II, Diebenkorn pursued a serious study of Matisse’s paintings in East Coast museums. These experiences introduced subjects, compositional strategies, a palette, and techniques that would later tremendously impact Diebenkorn’s work. Outstanding selections from his Urbana and Berkeley periods (1953-55), representational period (1955-67) and Ocean Park period (1968-80) will be shown side by side with seminal works by Matisse. 

The exhibition will reveal the lasting power of Diebenkorn’s firsthand experiences of the French artist’s work, from the Matisse retrospectives he saw in Los Angeles in 1952 and 1966 to his visits to see the great Matisse collections at the State Hermitage Museum and the Pushkin Museum in the Soviet Union in 1964.

With a longstanding history in the Bay Area, Matisse’s expressive paintings were first introduced to San Francisco shortly after the 1906 earthquake, shocking the arts community with their startling colors and brushwork. The artist’s very first west coast survey was held at SFMOMA in 1936, a year after the museum was founded. 

His work—specifically  

Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), 1905

—has become a historical anchor to SFMOMA’s painting and sculpture department. 

Diebenkorn had deep personal and professional connections with the area, growing up in San Francisco’s Ingleside Terraces neighborhood; attending Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley; and excelling as a student and instructor at the San Francisco Art Institute (then the California School of Fine Arts), and as an instructor at the California College of the Arts. Though they never met, Matisse and Diebenkorn will be connected through this stunning exhibition as never before, allowing visitors to discover new views of the artists long-beloved in the Bay Area.

Matisse’s influence on Diebenkorn is most visible in the younger artist’s figurative works from the 1950s and 1960s, but also evident in the structure, composition,and light of his earlier andlater abstractions. 

The exhibition is organized chronologically through Diebenkorn’s career beginning with some of the first Matisse works that Diebenkorn viewed in the Palo Alto home of Sarah Stein, one of Matisse’s first patrons, and at the BMA, The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.and The Museum of Modern Art in New Yorkin the 1940s. These works introduced the motifs, palette and techniquesthat later influenced the American painter. 

A rich selection of exceptional paintings and drawings from Diebenkorn’s representational period (1955-1967) illustrate the artist’s shift from abstraction towards identifiable subject matter and will be paired with some of the French master’s own compositions that were of particular relevance. Diebenkorn continued to seek out Matisse’s example, most notably during a trip to the Soviet Union in 1964, where he saw the extensive collections of works by Matisse in the StateHermitage Museum and the Pushkin Museum. 

This was followed by a visit two years later to a large Matisse retrospective in Los Angeles, where he saw over 300 works by the French master. Two highly significant abstract Matisse paintings that Diebenkorn saw in the 1966 retrospective will be featured in the exhibition. 

Diebenkorn returned to abstraction soon after moving to Ocean Park in Santa Monica, California in 1967. He is best known for his color and light-filled abstract compositions produced there. The exhibition will conclude with a selection of his Ocean Parkpaintings(1968-1980) juxtaposed with a selection of Matisse’s most influential works.


A fully illustrated catalogue will be produced with essays by Matisse/Diebenkorn co-curators Katy Rothkopf, BMA Senior Curator of European Painting & Sculpture,and Janet Bishop, SFMOMA Weisel Family Curator of Painting and Sculpture. Both examine Diebenkorn’s interactions with Matisse’swork throughout his long career. It will also include an introduction by John Elderfield, Allen R. Adler Distinguished Curator and Lecturer at the Princeton University Art Museum and Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, who has curated groundbreaking exhibitions on both artists. Jodi Roberts, Associate Curator of Special Projects at the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University will contribute an essay regarding the relationship between Matisse’s drawings and Diebenkorn’s own graphic work.The exhibition catalogue will be co-published with DelMonico Books/Prestel.

Richard Diebenkorn Untitled (Ocean Park), 1971 Charcoal on paper 26 1/4 x 18 5/8 inches Henri Matisse View of Notre Dame, 1914, Oil on Canvas 58 x 37 inches

Henri Matisse The Piano Lesson 1916. Oil on canvas, 8′ 1/2″ x 6′ 11 3/4″ & Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park #16, 1968 Oil on canvas 92 1/2 x 76 in.

Full Images Credits:

Henri Matisse. View of Notre Dame. 1914. The Museum of Modern Art, New York: Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest, and the Henry Ittleson, A. Conger Goodyear, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Sinclair Funds, and the Anna Erickson Levene Bequest given in memory of her husband, Dr. Phoebus Aaron Theodor Levene, 116.1975.©2015 Succession H. Matisse, Paris/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York

Richard Diebenkorn. Ocean Park #79.1975. Philadelphia Museum of Art: Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and with funds contributed by private donors, 1977, 1977-28-1. ©Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Outstanding review