ART, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Museums, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Matisse – from Mistake to Masterwork



The Dallas Museum of Art just re-installed one of their most popular pieces: Matisse’s Ivy in Flower, the model for a stained glass window.

Matisse’s Design Process

Matisse had a unique way of designing stained glass windows.  First he’d use water color to paint large pieces of paper and cut shapes out of the paper.  His assistants, usually lovely young women, would adhere the shapes to a huge canvas.  Then not unlike Vanna White turning over letters on Wheel of Fortune, the assistants would move the pieces around on the work at the direction of Matisse.  Not a bad way for an artist to spend the day.

The Work Follows a Long & Winding Road

The exhibit of Ivy in Flower has the unlikely name of Afterlife.  It’s a clever double entendre.  The piece was created as a model for a stained glass window for a mausoleum, but the mausoleum was never graced by the artist’s work.  The road this work took from from Matisse’s studio to the wall of the DMA was certainly a winding one, but thanks to that journey we can enjoy it today as one of Matisse’s masterpieces.

We can see it at the DMA, because of a well-written contract.  The French artist’s agent stipulated the American patron would pay $25,000 in advance for the design and the balance after the design was executed.  The patron paid, Matisse designed, the model was sent across the ocean to the patron and then it went in a drawer – at least figuratively.  Since the patron owned the design, they could do whatever they wanted to with it, but wherever it was, it was out of the public eye.

Dallas Museum of Contemporary Art

After Matisse died, his family asked for permission to use the model to create the window for another patron.  The American shipped the model to the family and when the window was created, the model was sent back to the patron.  It gets more interesting.  Dallas used to have something called the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Art and the Marcus’s of Neiman-Marcus fame were instrumental in procuring works for it.  Mrs. Marcus knew Matisse’s American patron, who just happened to be a Texan, and she convinced the patron to donate the work to the contemporary museum.

The work had found it’s way to a museum in Dallas, but it wasn’t the DMA we all know and love down on Ross Avenue. However, the burgeoning Contemporary Museum located on Cedar Springs joined forces with Dallas Museum of Fine Art which was out at Fair Park, in those days.  Ivy in Flower traveled across town.

I remember visiting the piece out at Fair Park back in the 60’s.  Today this popular piece spends more time in the vault than it does on the wall, to protect it from the kind of exposure that has already faded one side of the piece.  From Fair Park, Ivy in Flower moved down on Ross and that’s where you can see it now – if you hurry.  What was once a rejected commission is now considered a masterwork.

I suggest you make a visit to the DMA and see this wonderful piece.  It’s hanging in the Main Concourse across from the Center for Creative Connections until December 11th.  After that, it’s back to vault.

5 thoughts on “Matisse – from Mistake to Masterwork”

  1. Thanks, Jane! It’s good to be missed. 🙂 Right now, I’m slogging through a stack of essays (and wondering why I haven’t uncorked that bottle of Merlot for the occasion. :-)) On Thursday evening, I’ll really be in a mood to par-tay!


  2. I’ve been hopping since Summer II began, 51/2 weeks ago. Thank God, it’s almost over (Thursday, August 18.) We get maybe a little more than a week off before we hit it again for fall. Must find time to blog, again, myself.


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