This spring, the Pompidou Centre in Paris will present a major retrospective to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henri Matisse (he was born on 31 December 1869). It will be the largest exhibition of works by a modernist in the last half a century – since the epoch-making exposition at the Grand Palais in Paris in 1970.

The show, divided into nine “chapters”, will explore “the close relationship between text and image at the heart of Matisse’s art, offering a unique reading of his work,” the gallery reports. Most of the exhibits will be taken from the collections of the Museum of Modern Art at the Pompidou Centre. Among them is “The Head of White and Pink” (1914), which reflects the cubist innovations of Matisse.

“In addition to this core covering Matisse’s entire career, exclusive loans will come from two Matisse museums in France, in Cateau Cambressi and Nice,” the statement said.

Other works will be loaned to the Grenoble Museum. “The generosity of both the artist’s family and private collectors makes it possible to showcase large works, some of which have not been exhibited in France after a large retrospective dedicated to the Matisse in 1970 at the Grand Palais,” the Pompidou Centre said.

Henri Matisse, “The Girl with the Black Cat (Portrait of Margarita)” (1910). Private Collection
Henri Matisse, “Head White and Pink” (1914). Georges Pompidou National Centre for Art and Culture, Paris.

The exhibition is based on a text element. In 1947 Matisse published “Jazz”, a book in which collages of paper are interspersed with his philosophical reflections and calligraphic notes. “The literary aspect took a new turn in the 1930s, when Matisse began work on an illustrated book, Poems to Mallarmé. It is one of his iconic works of that period, along with the painting “Nymphs in the Woods” (1935/43, Matisse Museum in Nice),” the preamble to the exhibition says.

A documentary chronicle of Matisse’s travels should also be available earlier this year. The film “Chasing after the light. Matisse’s Travels”, produced jointly by the Centre Pompidou and Paris-based Nocturnes Productions, explores how the artist’s voyages to Corsica, Algeria, Morocco and Polynesia influenced his vision.

Algerian woman
Henri Matisse
1909, 81×65 cm

The trip to Tahiti that the artist undertook at the age of 60 in 1930 is particularly important as it inspired the famous painted paper applications made with just a pair of scissors. They reflect Matisse’s impressions of Tahitian tap, a bark fabric decorated with geometric patterns, and blankets known as tifaifai. “The light of the Pacific Ocean is the deep golden bowl into which we sink,” the artist said. – There is so much to see … sometimes I feel that my stay in Tahiti has ignited my imagination.

The Matisse exhibition at the Georges Pompidou National Centre for Art and Culture in Paris runs from May 13 to August 31.