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By the 1940s, family troubles, world events and ill health forced changes in Matisse’s life and art.
He and his wife, Amélie, separated in 1939, after 41 years of marriage in which they had two sons, Jean and Pierre, and had raised Marguerite, his daughter from a previous liaison. When World War II came, Pierre was an art dealer in New York, but Jean and Marguerite were both involved in the French Resistance to the Nazi occupation. Marguerite was captured and tortured by the Gestapo but escaped from a train en route to a German prison camp and was rescued by colleagues in the Resistance.
Two operations for colon cancer in the early 1940s left Matisse confined to bed or a wheelchair. No longer able to paint, he began to make abstract designs from colorful bits of paper. Twenty of them were published in “Jazz,” a 1947 portfolio with which the Minneapolis show comes to an exuberant end.
The Cone sisters met Matisse in the early 1900s, but they didn’t begin collecting his works seriously until after he’d lost some of the 1905 sizzle that earned him and his friends the epithet Fauves, or “wild beasts.” So, while the Cones’ collection is colorful, there are no audacious green-faced women or dramatically un-naturalistic scenes. Instead, their collection celebrates the kind of art he apparently loved best.
“What I dream of,” he once wrote, “is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or disturbing subject-matter … something like a good armchair in which one rests from physical fatigue.”
Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431