Jed Perl reviews the exhibition Matisse from SFMOMA at The Legion of Honor, San Francisco, on view through September 7, 2014.
Perl writes: "Matisse has been so assiduously promoted by generations of critics, curators, and historians as the prophet of the big, bold, knock-your-socks-off decorative canvas that it can come as a wonderful surprise to see a more intimate, ruminative side of his art... The show reaches from tiny, speculative landscapes and still lifes done around 1900 when Matisse was just starting out, to a study of two elegantly dressed women titled The Conversation (1938), one of a fascinating group of late-career paintings in which bold color is laid down with a speculative ease more familiar from the graphic arts. Missing from the show—due to loan restrictions—is the most famous of SFMOMA’s Stein Matisses, the Woman with a Hat, which Leo and Gertrude rescued from the jeering crowds at the Salon d’Automne in 1905. But even without that dazzling experiment in coloristic counterpoint this little show makes a very big case—a case for the extent to which Matisse’s radical discoveries are grounded in inwardness and intimism..."