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Henri Matisse: The Red Studio

The Red Studio, painted in 1911 by the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954), is the focal point of this research project. Part of the collection of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, this work depicts the artist’s workspace in the Parisian suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, which is occupied by his paintings, sculptures and decorative objects. Three of the paintings depicted in The Red Studio, Bathers, (1907) Le Luxe (II) (1907-8) and Nude with White Scarf (1909), now belong to SMK – National Gallery of Denmark, and this research project is conducted in a close collaboration between the two museums. Matisse’s radical decision to cover most of the painting’s surface in red has preoccupied generations of scholars, yet much about the painting’s genesis and history has remained unexplored.

The premise of this research project is that an in-depth examination of a single work of art leads to discoveries and insights that could not be obtained otherwise. While maintaining an intense focus on The Red Studio, the project explores the significance of each artwork depicted in it and the interrelationship between them. It builds, among other things, on new art technological studies of The Red Studio and the three paintings belonging to SMK, carried out by conservators at both museums, in addition to extensive archival studies, which have offered insights into the circumstances of each painting’s creation and their respective histories. The goal of the project is to obtain a deep insight into Matisse’s artistic project in the first decades of the twentieth century, and to understand the significance of The Red Studio as well as the works it depicts in relation to his artistic vision. The results of the project are presented in the exhibition Matisse: The Red Studio at MoMA and SMK, and in an accompanying book published by the two museums.