Matisse/Diebenkorn - Janet Bishop, Katherine Rothkopf

Staff Pick

The pairing of Matisse/Diebenkorn (Prestel, $49.95) was a natural, and the catalog of the exhibit—now at the Baltimore Museum of Art through January 29—is a true delight and joy. Richard Diebenkorn fell in love with the Matisses in the Phillips Collection in 1944, while stationed at Quantico. So began the California artist’s lifelong engagement with Matisse—never in an imitative way, but in his evolving signature style, alternating between figuration and abstraction, culminating in his Ocean Park series. There are many echoes between the artists: shared subject matter and attention to light, audacious brushwork and use of color, even the laying down of paint—sometimes hurried, sometimes rethought and layered. In their drawings, especially their life studies in charcoal, there is the graceful, bravura black lines, and the use of stumps and erasers to create highlights and sensuous greys. The conversation builds with each successive pairing of works on full-page, side-by-side spreads. There are essays by co-curators Janet Bishop and Katherine Rothkopf, by Jodi Roberts on drawings, and an introduction by John Elderfield, former MoMA curator who put on several important Matisse shows, who shares his many memories of Diebenkorn. Don’t miss the show, or the catalog. András Goldinger