Baltimore Museum of Art to Open The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies on December 12

BALTIMORE, MD – On December 12, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) will open The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies, an approximately 2,500-square-foot space on the first floor of the museum dedicated to the study of French artist Henri Matisse. The establishment of the center fulfills the BMA’s long-term strategic goal to increase research and presentation opportunities for the museum’s incomparable collection of more than 1,200 works by the artist—the largest public collection of his work in the world. The BMA has also commissioned artist Stanley Whitney to create a set of three, large-scale stained-glass windows to be installed inside the center and is presenting an exhibition titled Matisse: The Sinuous Line, both debuting with the center’s opening.

Named for a longtime BMA supporter, The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies includes a dedicated exhibition gallery; a study room and library for curators, scholars, and students; a work space; offices; and storage. The center is designed by Quinn Evans Architects and the cost is approximately $5 million, with additional endowment funds raised to support center staff, research, programming, and ongoing efforts to digitize a vast portion of the museum’s Matisse holdings. The center will be guided by Katy Rothkopf, The Anne and Ben Cone Memorial Director and the Senior Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the BMA.

The exhibition gallery will be named for Jay McKean Fisher, the inaugural director of the center and emeritus senior curator for prints, drawings, and photographs, who retired in 2020 after 45 years at the museum. Fisher curated several acclaimed exhibitions on Matisse and nearly doubled the BMA’s holdings of works by the artist during his long tenure.

Stanley Whitney (b. 1946, Philadelphia) has long been recognized for his vibrant explorations of color and light within the painterly structures of the grid. He has often cited historic European painting as one source of inspiration for his formal investigations, including the work of Matisse and in particular Matisse’s glass windows for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence in Southern France. Whitney’s installation for the BMA marks the artist’s first museum commission and his first time working in stained glass, translating his interest in expressions of color in a medium naturally suited to it. To create the panels, Whitney is working with Mayer of Munich, one of the world’s oldest and most celebrated artist glass studios. Whitney’s installation is being developed with curatorial support from Katy Siegel, BMA Senior Curator for Research and Programming and Thaw Chair of Modern Art at Stony Brook University.

“With the inauguration of the Marder Matisse Center, we are establishing a new resource that invites research, discovery, and dialogue about Matisse’s significance to art history and his ongoing relevance to contemporary artists. Our vision for the center is to engage scholars and the public alike by making a greater portion of our Matisse collection visible and by dedicating space where individuals can gather to learn and engage with the work and each other. This is an important and exciting moment for the museum, as we achieve a critical milestone in increasing access to our Matisse holdings,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “We are also thrilled for the opportunity to permanently display Stanley Whitney’s first stained-glass work as part of our development of the center. The stunning installation exemplifies Stanley’s incredible engagement with color and light and reflects a dynamic connection across time and artistic vision. Capturing this creative relationship is very much in alignment with the work we plan to do at the center and across the museum.”

Matisse: The Sinuous Line is the first installation in a two-part exhibition series that examines the artist’s graceful use of line and innate ability to suggest personality and mood with just several strokes or with many more in his fully fleshed-out compositions. The exhibition takes Matisse’s bronze sculpture The Serpentine (1909)—held in the BMA’s collection—as its point of departure to explore the artist’s transition from a more classical style to a streamlined treatment of the body through 15 objects from the BMA’s collection. Matisse: The Sinuous Line will feature several bronze works and a selection of drawings, etchings, and lithographs—many of which have not been on view at the museum for several years. The exhibition is curated by Rothkopf and reflects the underlying vision for the center to explore lesser-studied aspects of Matisse’s work. It will remain on view through April 24, 2022.

“The goal of the Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies is to both dedicate BMA curatorial staff time and resources to exhibitions large and small on Matisse and his influence, and also to provide a space for college level and graduate students and scholars to learn more about the artist by close looking at our large and representative collection of his work,” said Rothkopf. “We want to inspire scholarship on Matisse’s extraordinary impact from both inside and outside of the institution. The new gallery in the Center for Matisse Studies provides a space to show wonderful examples of the French artist’s works on paper and sculpture in small, focused exhibitions. The exhibitions will range from those that explore a particular theme or technique in Matisse’s work solely, to installations that show Matisse and his contemporaries exploring similar ideas, and finally to projects that show Matisse’s influence on artists working today.”

Matisse Collection
The Matisse collection at the BMA was first established in the early 20th century through the vision and philanthropy of sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, whose internationally renowned collection was bequeathed to the museum in 1949 and is the centerpiece of the BMA’s expansive holdings. Among the highlights of the Cone Collection are more than 600 works by Matisse, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and illustrated books. To this incredible group of objects, the BMA has added hundreds of works by the artist, amassing the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Matisse works in a public museum. This includes gifts from members of the Matisse family, such as a selection of works from the collection of the artist’s daughter Marguerite Duthuit, and a major donation of prints by The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation in New York.

The foundation of the collection is explored in part in the BMA’s exhibition A Modern Influence: Henri Matisse, Etta Cone, and Baltimore, on view at the museum from October 3, 2021 – January 2, 2022. Curated by Rothkopf and Leslie Cozzi, BMA Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, the exhibition explores the singular 43-year friendship between Baltimore collector Etta Cone and Matisse and the ways their connection informed the development of the extraordinary Cone Collection. The show features more than 160 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and illustrated books and is accompanied by a catalogue that includes explorations of the correspondence and engagement between the collector and artist.

The BMA will also open on December 12 the adjacent Nancy Dorman and Stanley Mazaroff Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.

Stanley Whitney
Stanley Whitney has been exploring the formal possibilities of color within ever-shifting grids of multi-hued blocks and all-over fields of gestural marks and passages since the mid-1970s. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Modern Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, USA (2017) and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY (2015). He has been featured in many prominent group shows, including Inherent Structure, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2018); Documenta 14 in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany (2017); Nero su Bianco at the American Academy in Rome, Italy (2015); and Utopia Station at the 50th Venice Biennale (2003), among others. Whitney has been awarded the Robert De Niro Sr. Prize in Painting (2011), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Art Award (2010), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1996). His work is in a range of public collections, including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, KS; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT. He holds a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute as well as an MFA from Yale University and is currently Professor emeritus of painting and drawing at Tyler School of Art, Temple University. Whitney was born in Philadelphia in 1946 and lives and works in New York City and Parma, Italy.

More information:

Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies rendering. Quinn Evans Architects