A Matisse Painting Needs Your Help


The American Friends of the National Gallery of Denmark are dedicated to supporting this prestigious Copenhagen institution, which is officially named the Statens Museum for Kunst (“SMK”). Now the Friends are promoting a unique opportunity that will surely fascinate most art lovers. This is a $30,000 Kickstarter campaign that will help restore a lyrical painting by Henri Matisse to its full glory—and will also help it visit the United States next spring for the first time ever. Click here to watch a four-minute film about the project and to make a donation to this 501c3 charitable foundation.

The backstory is remarkable. Matisse’s painting, “Nymph and Faun,” can be glimpsed in his much larger—and totally revolutionary—canvas of 1911, “The Red Studio,” which has been in the collection of New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) since 1949. MoMA’s six-foot-tall-by-seven-foot-wide canvas depicts the modernist master’s work space in the Parisian suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, glimpsed at a moment when he was experimenting with exciting new modes of expression.

Henri Matisse (1869–1954), “Nymph and Faun,” c. 1911, oil on canvas, 28 ¾ x 23 ¼ in., National Gallery of Denmark © 2021 Succession H. Matisse, Artists Rights Society, New York
Henri Matisse (1869–1954), “Nymph and Faun,” c. 1911, oil on canvas, 28 ¾ x 23 ¼ in., National Gallery of Denmark © 2021 Succession H. Matisse, Artists Rights Society, New York

“Nymph and Faun” itself shows two figures bathing in a landscape, yet it has never been on public view because it was held in private European collections for more than a century, until the SMK acquired it relatively recently.

Now “Nymph and Faun” is needed to play a starring role in the groundbreaking new exhibition, ”Henri Matisse: The Red Studio,” which will appear at MoMA from May 1 through September 11, 2022. Alas, “Nymph and Faun” cannot travel and take its rightful place in this much-anticipated show until it receives proper conservation treatment at the SMK’s own laboratory. Unfortunately, such treatments can be expensive, which is why the SMK’s American Friends are busy raising the necessary funds.

Henri Matisse (1869–1954), “The Red Studio"
Henri Matisse (1869–1954), “The Red Studio,” 1911, oil on canvas, 6 x 7 feet, Museum of Modern Art, New York © 2021 Succession H. Matisse, Artists Rights Society, New York. Note that “Nymph and Faun” appears at right center.

The upcoming exhibition—which will move from New York to the SMK itself in the autumn of 2022—seeks to present all of the artworks depicted in “The Red Studio.” This should include “Nymph and Faun,” plus five other surviving paintings, three sculptures, and one ceramic—all created by Matisse. The exhibition will mark the first time they have been together since 1911, and much credit goes to the organizing curators—Ann Temkin (MoMA) and Dorthe Aagesen (SMK)—for attempting this feat.

As it happens, “Nymph and Faun” is very thinly painted, and surface dirt must now be removed in order to restore the vibrancy of Matisse’s colors and brushwork. In addition, minor paint losses must be stabilized, and the picture’s decorative frame must be given a “micro-climate” that will mitigate the temperature and humidity changes that will inevitably occur as the painting wings its way from Denmark to America next spring.

Be sure to watch the intriguing four-minute video, and consider helping this truly international effort—Danes and Americans collaborating to honor a great French artist—move forward.

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