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Audain Art Museum welcomes drawings by Matisse

Visiting exhibition selected by artist Ellsworth Kelly, whose work also part of show

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Art lovers know painter Henri Matisse to be a master of colour, but he was also a master of flowing lines.

The opportunity to see this has come to the Audain Art Museum with a new show.

Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection features Matisse drawings made over the course of 50 years, with the majority coming from the 1930s to '50s.

It opens on Saturday, Feb. 25 and runs until May 22.

Audain curator Darrin Martens emphasizes that while the great master's paintings aren't on show, there will still be plenty to see and consider in the 45 drawings in the exhibit. The subjects include portraits, still lifes and human form.

Kelly's nine lithographs of plants were made in the 1960s, and show a similar appreciation for lines as Matisse.

"You will get an insight into both of these artists and how they see what they see, and how they translate that into a visual art form," says Martens.

Matisse died in 1954, while Kelly passed away in 2015.

Martens says the exhibition covers three areas of significance for both.

"First and foremost, it is about the foundation of art. Whether it is Matisse or Kelly, both relied on drawing as a foundation for their practices," he says.

"Whether it led to paintings, or sculptures, or cutouts. It doesn't really matter. Drawing is fundamental to artistic practices to any artist. This is what it reminds me of."

The second point, Martens adds, is about "seeing" — both in terms of Matisse creating form through line that are descriptive or emotive, and Kelly exploring shape.

"Many of these drawings are highly abstracted, but they are still believable. While Kelly is about shape and interest in the botanical genre, capturing their singular shapes, which is lovely," Martens says.

The final point is about the process of drawing and labour.

"It's about how an artist works through an idea. One tends to see the final version of an artist's work, regardless of what it is. You are seeing the decisions that have been made, the outcome of additions and subtractions," Martens says.

"With this exhibition, there is a broad portrait of Matisse that many might now have seen because it incorporates studies and quick sketches. You are able to see his process develop."

Matisse's artwork does not have any nameplates with information. Instead, visitors to the exhibition will be given a pamphlet that covers the names and date for each drawing.

The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation was created in 1995 by the wife of the art dealer Pierre Matisse, the youngest child of the Henri Matisse.

Entry to Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection is free with the $18 general admission ticket to the Audain. Children under 17 are free.

For more information, visit www.audainartmuseum.com.

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