The Baltimore Museum of Art, home to the largest public collection of Henri Matisse works, announced that it will soon open a dedicated Henri Matisse research and study center. Scheduled to open its doors in 2021, the 3,400-square-foot center will take place on the museum’s first floor and plans to show rotating exhibitions of Matisse’s works on paper. The museum’s former chief curator, Jay McKean Fisher, will now be running the center which will also serve as a “major resource” for art historians, and the general public.
The BMA’s collection currently boasts over 1,200 works by the artist, consisting of around 500 pieces donated by the Cone sisters and around 700 acquired since then. Later gifts from Matisse’s daughter, Marguerite Duthuit, as well as other members of the artist’s family, contributed to the collection and ultimately made it the largest in the world.
“The importance of the Cone Collection and the subsequent gifts and acquisitions have made it nearly impossible for any museum to have a substantive Matisse exhibition without a loan from the Baltimore Museum of Art,” museum director Christopher Bedford told the Baltimore Sun. “Having a dedicated space to research the collection as well as the funds for more Matisse exhibitions, publications, and programs will redouble the museum’s international reputation. And it’s rather extraordinary to have this in a city like Baltimore and not in France.”
When Claribel and Etta Cone first came across Henri Matisse’s work, much like the rest of the art world, they were taken aback by his expressive style and bold colour choice. The sisters quickly became close to the artist, whom he dubbed bon vivants and his “two Baltimore ladies.” Throughout their lives in the early 20th century, the sisters went on to amass some 500 works including paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints by the French master.
Upon their death, the sisters left their holdings, which also included works by Picasso, Cézanne, Gaugin and van Gogh, to the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA). Claribel, who passed away in 1929, had specifically wrote in her will that the gift would be granted only if “the spirit of appreciation of modern art in Baltimore becomes improved”. Her conditions were certainly fulfilled by the BMA, which continued to grow their Matisse collection to where it is today.
The newly-announced research center which came after a $5 million donation from the Ruth Carol Fund, only cements the sisters’ conditions and strengthen’s the institution’s ties with the French master. According to the press release, the center will be named the Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies, honoring the local philanthropist who started the Ruth Carol Fund.