Exhibition Press Release

SFMOMA Presents Matisse: Painter As Sculptor Exhibition Examines Artist's Achievements In Sculpture

Exhibition dates: June 09 - September 16, 2007

Release date: April 12, 2007

From June 9 through September 16, 2007, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present the exhibition, Matisse: Painter as Sculptor, the first major U.S. examination of Henri Matisse's sculpture in nearly 40 years. The exhibition features more than 150 works in a variety of media to illustrate the artist's inventiveness, dexterity, and historical significance. Side-by-side presentations of two- and three-dimensional pieces showcase the way themes, imagery, and processes overlapped in Matisse's studio practice, while a selection of works by the artist's peers—including Constantin Brancusi, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso, and Auguste Rodin, among other modern masters—provides a vivid context for considering Matisse's oeuvre.

Matisse: Painter as Sculptor is organized thematically around a core group of more than 40 of Matisse's sculptural masterpieces, which are complemented by a selection of related works on paper, paintings, and original photographs of the artist in his studio. These integrated groupings illuminate the evolution of Matisse's sculptural ideas and his complex creative process. The exhibition explores how the artist's drawings may have developed through sculpture and how sculpture may have influenced his painting. Matisse's bronze sculpture Reclining Nude I (Aurora) (1907) appears alongside the painting Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra (1907), a canvas that the artist was painting during a key and difficult moment in the modeling of the sculpture. The painted and sculpted representations of the reclining female nude evolved together and were inextricably linked. Other exhibition highlights include the bronze sculptures Madeleine I (1901) and Madeleine II (1903), the five portrait busts of Jeanette (1910–14), and the monumental series of four bronze reliefs known as The Backs(1909–30), Matisse's most sustained exploration of the reduction and abstraction of the human form.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a fully illustrated catalogue, Matisse: The Painter as Sculptor, has been coproduced with Yale University Press. The catalogue presents new scholarship through a series of essays offering insights into Matisse's sculptural work: Steven Nash discusses Matisse's patronage and the reception of his sculpture in America; Dorothy Kosinski probes the art historical context of Matisse's sculpture in dialogue with tradition and the avant-garde; Oliver Shell examines the artist's ideas about the viewing of his sculpture, as revealed by his deliberate placement of sculpture in exhibitions; Shell and Ann Boulton, Baltimore Museum of Art objects conservator, summarize technical studies undertaken while they held a joint fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art; and Jay McKean Fisher explores the use of drawing in the evolution of Matisse's sculptural ideas. The book is available at the SFMOMA MuseumStore.

A self-guided audio tour is available, featuring guides to Matisse: Painter as Sculptor and the SFMOMA collection. Scholars and conservators discuss Matisse's sculptural process while contemporary sculptors provide their own takes on Matisse's artistic inventiveness. The audio tour is available for $2.

Following SFMOMA's presentation, the exhibition will travel to The Baltimore Museum of Art (October 28, 2007–February 8, 2008).

The exhibition was jointly organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Nasher Sculpture Center. The San Francisco presentation is organized by Janet Bishop, SFMOMA curator of painting and sculpture. The national tour is presented by Bank of America, the exhibition's exclusive corporate partner. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional organizing support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. The San Francisco presentation is generously supported by Koret Foundation Funds and the Evelyn D. Haas Exhibition Fund.

Media Contacts

  • Sandra Farish Sloan, 415.357.4174,
  • Libby Garrison, 415.357.4177,
  • Robyn Wise, 415.357.4172,


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
151 Third Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

Founded in 1935 as the first West Coast museum devoted to modern and contemporary art, SFMOMA is currently undergoing a major expansion project that will significantly enhance gallery, education, and public spaces, enabling the museum to better showcase more of its expanded permanent collection. While the museum is temporarily closed for construction,  through 2016, SFMOMA is “on the go” with an extensive array of off-site programming across the Bay Area, including collaborative and traveling museum exhibitions, major outdoor projects and commissioned installations, and new education initiatives.

Visit sfmoma.org or call 415.357.4000 for more information.