Any Henri Matisse exhibit is a special event, whether going over old territory or suggesting a new approach. The Museum of Modern Art has a comparatively small but fascinating exhibition (July 18-October 11, 2010) titled “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917,” and it is well worth a visit.

The great artist, born in 1869 and producing a wonderful array of work before his death in 1954, went through an interesting key time in his life of creativity within a four year period beginning in 1913, the years to which this current exhibition is anchored. What this show does is present 110 of the artist’s works that reveal a progression of experimentation.

The exhibit enables us to see the step by step process by which he made changes in content and form. He was inspired by other artists, such as Cézanne. In particular, for example, was Cézanne’s “Three Bathers,” which is part of the exhibit. Strolling through the new show, one can see how Matisse reworked some of his paintings to seek the effects for which he searched. When inspired by certain of his travels, notably to Spain and Morocco, his artist’s sensibility and sensitivity resulted in fresh insights and desires to incorporate experiences into future work.

The lay person can get the point and enjoy the exhibit while being helped by the written explanations accompanying the various sections. Artists may especially find the exploration instructive and a treasure trove. In the Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Gallery, Sixth Floor, The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street. Phone: 212-708-9400.

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