Line v. Color

Exhibition Review

  • "Matisse: The Essence of Line. Selected Prints: 1900–1950"

  • Marlborough Galleries, New York
  • 12 Sep 2013 - 12 Oct 2013
  • London
  • 04 Dec 2013 - 11 Jan 2014

Remember a line cannot exist alone; it always brings a companion along […] No lines can go wild; every line must have its function.

—Henri Matisse, 19081

Henri Matisse is considered the greatest French colorist of the first half of the 20th century, but line was equally essential to his art. This is the point made strongly in Marlborough Galleries’ recent exhibition.2 “Matisse: The Essence of Line” presented prints and illustrations produced between 1900 and 1950. Like the 1983 Matisse print catalogue raisonné, the exhibition was divided into four sections, three focusing on technique (drypoints and etchings; lithographs; linocuts and aquatints) and one on “Dance and Poetry.”3

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  1. Jack Flam, Matisse on Art (University of California Press, 1995): 48. “Souvenez-vous qu’une ligne ne peut pas exister seule; elle amène toujours une compagne […] Les lignes ne peuvent jamais être lâchées en liberté; chaque ligne doit avoir sa fonction.” Dominique Fourcade, Matisse, Écrits et Propos sur l’art (Paris: Hermann, 2009): 67. []
  2. The New York show included 81 prints, while in Europe the number was considerably reduced. []
  3. Claude Duthuit, Marguerite Duthuit-Matisse, Henri Matisse: Catalogue raisonné de l’œuvre gravé (Paris: C. Duthuit Editeur, 1983). The illustrations were published in C. Duthuit, Henri Matisse: Catalogue raisonné des ouvrages illustrés (Paris: Imprimerie Union, 1987). []