Matisse Master of Line Media Release


18 September 2019 – 5 January 2020

One of the undisputed masters of 20th century art, Henri Matisse (1869-1954) is renowned for the exquisite delicacy of his drawn line as much as for the intense brilliance of his colour.

His etchings are remarkable for the fact that they preserve the vivacity and clarity of his drawing, giving them an immediacy that is especially striking in dialogue with the etchings of Rembrandt – a selection of which will be on display in the exhibition Rembrandt in Print, running concurrently at the Holburne (opens 4 October).

In the year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Matisse’s birth, the Holburne Museum has created a focused exhibition of around twenty works.

Central to the show is a group of etchings drawn together by the legendary London collector and dealer John Kasmin. The selection offers a concise and intense immersion into the achievements of one of the greatest draughtsmen of all time.

Matisse first made etchings around 1914/15 and there are several examples from that period in the exhibition. The sitter for one of those works recalled how the artist captured his likeness in just five minutes working straight on to the copper etching plate.

The larger part of the exhibition comes from the late 1920s when Matisse was intensely engaged in printmaking. Again, these were achieved by the artist working directly on the plate in front of his subject. The images reflect the themes of this period of his career: female nudes in interiors furnished with fabrics and objects from North Africa and, notably, a goldfish bowl.

Holburne Director Chris Stephens says “Matisse’s etchings retain the perfect simplicity and clarity of his drawings. In showing them alongside those of Rembrandt we are delighted to bring together two of the greatest printmakers of all time. To have two such titans at the Holburne presents an extraordinary and unmissable opportunity.’”


Henri Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954) was a French painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor. He initially trained in law and began painting in about 1890, studying first with Bouguereau at the Académie Julian and then with Moreau at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Influenced mainly by Cézanne, Gauguin and Renoir, Matisse developed with associates like Derain a bold simplified style. When they exhibited their work in 1905 Matisse and his friends were described by a critic as ‘fauves’ (wild beasts). While maintaining a studio in Paris, Matisse travelled extensively, living in Spain, Tangier and Morocco. From 1922, he worked regularly in Paris and Nice (where he died), producing prints and book illustrations, sculpture and the paper cut-outs, which are among the best known of his later works.

The Holburne Museum’s mission statement is ‘Changing Lives Through Art’, signalling its commitment to opening up the enjoyment of art to people of all ages and from every walk of life. The Holburne was founded in 1882 with the gift of Sir William Holburne’s collection of 16th and 17th century Italian and Dutch paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture, porcelain and diverse objets d’art of national and international significance. That founding gift has been augmented with a collection of 18th century paintings by such artists as Gainsborough, Lawrence, Ramsay, Stubbs and Zoffany. Set within the historic Sydney Pleasure Gardens, the Museum reopened in May 2011 after ambitious renovations and with a new, award-winning extension by Eric Parry Architects. The Holburne has since secured a national reputation as an outstanding museum which holds critically acclaimed exhibitions. Its programme of exhibitions, commissions and events sets out to bring to Bath great art of all periods and from around the world, seeking to set the art of the past in dialogue with contemporary practice in exciting and dynamic new ways.