Photo Essays

The Best Matisse Room I’ve Ever Seen

The entrance to the National Gallery of Denmark (all photos by the author) (click to enlarge)

The Statens Museum for Kunst, or the National Gallery of Denmark, is a stately building that is the treasure house of Denmark’s largest collection of Western European painting. Renowned for its print and drawing collection, I wasn’t prepared to encounter such a fantastic room of early Matisse works that rivaled any other I’ve ever seen. If the works themselves weren’t impressive, than the curation beautifully amplified them, placing sculptures in front of related paintings and offering the viewer a visual dialogue that exemplified a particularly rich period of Matisse’s development.

It was easy to lose yourself in the sensuality of the figures, the feathery surfaces of the paintings or the dense forms in the table sculptures. The artist’s love of the female figure is everywhere.

The entrance to the modern French collection gives you a hint to what’s inside.

/ hv

A spectacular work by André Derain, “Woman in a Chemise” (1906), greets you when you enter the galleries. The woman in the painting looks at your knowingly, as if she suspects you’re going to have your mind blown.

/ hv

You turn the corner and Georges Braque’s “Trees at l’Estaque” (1908) leads to a gallery with a lot of cubism.

/ hv

A wall of works by Amedeo Modigliani are a great sight, including his “Self-Portrait as Pierrot” (1915) and “Alice” (1918).

/ vg

Pablo Picasso’s “Glass with Lemon Slice” (1913) sucks you in and doesn’t let you go.

/ hv

A sculpture by Henri Laurens, “Musical Instrument” (1919), is surrounded by works by Picasso and other cubist masters.

/ hv

In the second room you seen Fernand Léger’s “Woman with a Vase” (1924) in the distance, but the Matisses overwhelm you immediately.

/ hv

On the right is the Henri Matisse’s “Le Luxe II” (1907-8), one of his characteristic treatments of the nude woman in the landscape from the era. The drawing and color is in perfect union, but what the hell is that woman on the bottom looking for?

/ hv

One of Matisse’s breakthrough masterpieces, “Portrait of Madame Matisse or The Green Line” (1905) vibrates on the wall. Even the chunky frame, which I would remove if I could, does little to tone down the color in this small work.

/ hv

Matisse’s “Reclinging Nude, I (Aurora)” (1907) sits in front of “Goldfish” (1912), and you’re convinced it must be the same work depicts on the canvas.

/ hv

A closer inspection almost seals the deal.

/ hv

In another corner are more moody Matisses, dominated by black and a sense of shadow, including “Interior with a Violin” (1918), and “Reclining Woman, II” (c. 1929) bronze.

/ hv

A detail of Matisse’s “The Green Blouse” (1936), which features a sitter who seduces you with her gaze.

/ hv

After the Matisse room your head is buzzing with color but there’s still some gems you can’t help but notice as you walk out of the French galleries, including André Derain’s “Still Life” (1913).

/ hv

By the exit is an impressive, if diverse, display of sculptures by Henri Laurens and drawings by Aristide Maillol.

/ hv

The National Gallery of Denmark is open Tuesdays-Sundays 10 am–5pm and Wednesdays 10am–8pm.

comments (0)