Do you have a New Year’s resolution to save money? Then art lovers must stop reading this. Now. Right now. Or else you will learn about “Matisse in the Barnes Foundation,” the vibrant celebration of the Barnes Foundation’s extraordinary holdings of works by painter Henri Matisse.(The foundation is among the most important collections of Matisse paintings in the world.) Beautifully produced in three eye-catching slip-cased volumes and offered by Thames & Hudson for a mere $275, the treasure trove features 59 paintings from every stage of the illustrious artist’s career.
At the heart of this collection are Matisse’s most historically significant works, “Le Bonheur de vivre,” also called “The Joy of Life, and The Dance,” the monumental mural that Barnes Foundation founder Dr. Albert C. Barnes commissioned to fill the lunettes of the Foundation’s main gallery, transforming both the space and Matisse’s career. “The work is known to have invigorated fellow artists, especially Pablo Picasso, who, in an effort to outdo Matisse in terms of shock value, immediately began work on his watershed Les Demoiselles D’Avignon,” says Martha Lucy, associate curator at the Barnes Foundation.
In addition to sumptuous, annotated reproductions of Matisse’s paintings and sketches throughout, the publication includes three major essays:
• Art historian Claudine Grammont discusses how and why Barnes collected Matisse’s works
• The book’s editor and art historian at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, Yve-Alain Bois writes in depth about Matisse’s life and works, and details the evolution of “The Dance” and the role it played in Matisse’s career
• Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum associate curator Karen K. Butler examines how Barnes viewed Matisse.
The publication also includes detailed interpretive analyses of the Matisse paintings in the Barnes Collection, including the stories behind acquisitions of the works and their critical reception. In Volume One, stunning color installation photographs showcase how Matisse’s works are exhibited at the Barnes Foundation.
In a dedicated section of Volume Two, the Barnes Foundation’s senior director of conservation and chief conservator of paintings Barbara Buckley, and Winterthur Museum’s senior conservation scientist, investigate Matisse’s technique in painting Le Bonheur de vivre and present the newest findings on the pigments used in that work.
Following reproductions of Matisse’s photographs of “The Dance,” a remarkable section of Volume Three delves into correspondence around that work, reproducing letters, sketches and telegrams exchanged between Barnes and Matisse that shaped the landmark mural. This is the first occasion that all Matisse’s photographs documenting his progress on the three versions of his dance murals have been published together.
Stephen Sondheim says art isn’t easy. Neither are New Year resolutions, when such a landmark publishing event—the first authoritative publication to cover in its entirety one of the most significant holdings of Matisse works in the world—enters a new year.