Say It in French

Matisse comes to Denver -- via Baltimore.

The sculptures in this room are also remarkable. Don't miss the 1909 bronze "Serpentine," in which a sinuous woman leans against a gloppy post. It's remarkable for its openness -- an important attribute in early modern sculpture, because pieces like this broke the inherent tradition of solidity in the medium. Also not to be missed is "Reclining Nude I (Aurore)," a bronze sculpture from 1907 that is stylistically intertwined with "Blue Nude." It has been placed next to "Blue Nude," which is very effective.

The third gallery is dominated by several fine drawings, including portraits of Dr. Claribel and Miss Etta that were done in the same style as Matisse's self-portrait at the start of the show. The portrait of Dr. Claribel, a charcoal on paper from 1931, was a posthumous commission from Miss Etta. As a surprise, Matisse created the portrait of Miss Etta, also in charcoal on paper, at the same time.

Beyond is a room devoted to landscapes, often depictions of the seaside in the south of France.

"Large Reclining Nude," oil painting.
"Large Reclining Nude," oil painting.

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Through June 25

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Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway

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Proceeding on, there is a residential room, complete with chairs. The entry has been marked by another spectacular painting, "The Yellow Dress," an oil on canvas from 1929-31. In this room, along with a few paintings, some with musical subjects, are photo enlargements of the artworks in situ in the apartments of the Cone sisters. The apartments, three in the same building, were so crammed with art that's it's hard to image how anyone could have moved around in them. They must have been awe-inspiring.

The show winds down with a gallery given over to still life and interior paintings, and finally one in which there are several of Matisse's famous "Odalisque" paintings, in which the exotic world of the harem is, actually or symbolically, the setting. These paintings remind us that modern art came out of the French academic system, since harem girls were a favorite subject for many nineteenth-century French artists.

As you leave Matisse, not quite over the aesthetic numbness brought on by having actually seen the "Blue Nude," you'll no doubt find yourself already planning a return trip to the show.

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