In a 2018 essay on Henri Matisse’s prints, John Yau reflects on Matisse’s idealization of Jean Dominique Ingres’s sensual line. Ingres, whose masterful articulation of simple—but undoubtedly revolutionary contour—set a tone that Matisse would carry out in lithographs and etchings during the early twentieth century. These works would propel Matisse’s line into one of its most captivating and enigmatic periods, solidifying his mark-making as a direct point of reference for generations of painters. In Yau’s analysis, Matisse “admired the past by making it modern,” by focusing his efforts on the core tenant of all of all masterpieces: the line. Matisse was able to consciously imbue every stroke and contour with modern meaning, energy, and sensuality, which would allow him to capture something of the soul of his subjects. This effortless simplicity would ensnare artists, scholars, and viewers to situate him as a master of the modern era.
Locks Gallery is pleased to present a selection of 1920s prints as well as 1930s drawings, which exemplify the expressive range and capability of Matisse’s line. These works are simple contour drawings depicting subjects deep in concentration, reading or watching fish in vague geometric- and floral-patterned spaces as well as fully-rendered, luxurious interiors that settle around languid nudes whose forward gazes are captured with simple strokes. By presenting these works as a group, the viewer may immerse themself in Matisse's process and glean the foundation of his painted and papercut masterpieces.