Matisse is breaking out all over

June is very much Matisse time on Third Street, where the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is doubling up on Henri Matisse (1869-1954), one of the most important French artists of the 20th century.

Continuing on SFMoMA’s second floor is “Matisse and Beyond: The Painting and Sculpture Collection.” Coming on Saturday to the fifth floor is “Matisse: Painter as Sculptor.”

The second-floor show, from the museum’s permanent collection, represents movements ranging from fauvism and cubism to pop and minimalism, including paintings, sculptures and works on paper by some of the most celebrated artists of the recent past. The “Painter as Sculptor” exhibit is a special show, assembled for the occasion.

Matisse was not only a great and popular artist, but he also had a good sense of humor: “I have painted almost 1,200 pictures,” he once said. “More than 2,500 of them are in the U.S.A.” Imitation and forgery are the sincerest forms of flattery.

As in painting, Matisse’s main interest in sculpture was the human form — mostly women, mostly nude.

“What interests me most,” he had written, “is neither still life nor landscape but the human figure. It is through it that I best succeed in expressing the nearly religious feeling that I have toward life.”

Why does a painter turn to sculpting? He didn’t really; it was more of a “time-out.”

Matisse’s interest in painting, he said, was “a clarification of my ideas. I changed my method and worked in clay in order to have a rest from painting,” and “by changing the medium I do not change the goal… I do not consider my sculpture anything but an exercise.”

Matisse might have taken the matter lightly, but SFMoMA doesn’t. This is the first major U.S. exhibit of Matisse’s sculpture in nearly 40 years, assembling more than 150 works.

The strong, occasionally grotesque, lines of the sculptures will make a new, powerful impression even on those well familiar with the artist’s paintings.

As in SFMoMA’s just-concluded Picasso exhibit, the Matisse sculpture show uses intriguing side-by-side presentations. For Picasso, some of his works were shown right next to the paintings by others he influenced. For Matisse, two- and three-dimensional pieces together showcase the way themes, imagery and processes overlap in his art.

Both SFMoMA Matisse exhibits include a rich selection of works by Matisse’s peers, including Constantin Brancusi, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Alberto Giacometti, Pablo Picasso and Auguste Rodin, and both deal with fauvism, the short-lived but important school with which he is most closely associated.

Named for “Les Fauves” or “wild beasts,” this outgrowth of pointillism and postimpressionism is characterized by a more primitive and less naturalistic form of expression than those two larger trends. Influenced by Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, fauvism practitioners included Matisse, Albert Marquet, Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck.

Matisse: Painter as Sculptor

Where: Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St., San Francisco

When: 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. daily except closed Wednesday; until 8:45 p.m. Thursdays; exhibit closes Sept. 16

Admission: $7 to $12.50

Contact: (415) 357-4000 or

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at

Just Posted

California is set to receive supplies of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is still under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (Courtesy photo)
California could receive 380K doses of new J&J COVID vaccine next week

California could receive 380,300 doses of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine… Continue reading

Disability advocates protested outside the home of San Francisco Health Officer Tomas Aragon. (Courtesy Brooke Anderson)
Vaccine rollout plan for people with disabilities remains deeply flawed

On February 13, disability activists paid a visit to the house of… Continue reading

A Bay Area Concrete Recycling facility that opened on PG&E property in 2019. Former PG&E employees have been accused of accepting bribes from Bay Area Concrete. (Courtesy of Bay Area Concrete Recycling via ProPublica)
Lawsuit reveals new allegations against PG&E contractor accused of fraud

By Scott Morris Bay City News Foundation Utility giant Pacific Gas &… Continue reading

New protected bicycle lanes stretch from the city's Portola District to Bernal Heights. (Courtesy Bay City News)
City leaders celebrate protected bike lanes in city’s Portola, Bernal Heights neighborhoods

San Francisco city leaders on Thursday announced the completion of new protected… Continue reading

A short walk leads to the base of Yosemite Falls, requiring no snow gear except in heavy winter conditions. (Matt Johanson/Special to S.F. Examiner)
Snowy destinations abound in Yosemite winter

Those who journey to the mountains discover grand scenery, solitude .

Most Read