News — 17 Dec 2014

Amsterdam, December 15, 2014 - With over 100 works generously loaned from 30 collections, the Stedelijk Museum presents The Oasis of Matisse next spring. For the first time in over sixty years, the work of the French master will go on view in the Netherlands. Never before have so many of his works been on show in this country.

The Stedelijk has conceived a unique exhibition concept for this survey: the permanent collection on the museum’s ground floor will be enriched with a selection of Henri Matisse’s (1868-1854) classic pieces, creating surprising combinations with the work of his contemporaries, teachers, and followers. In this way, both the work of one of the most important artists of the twentieth century as well as other artists can be seen in a new light, and visitors will be able to encounter Matisse’s art at every stage of his artistic development.

Bart Rutten, head of collections at the Stedelijk, says, “Comparing and contrasting Matisse’s work with pieces in the Stedelijk collection not only allows us to see the collection afresh, but also offers remarkable insights into one of the world’s most exhibited, researched, and written-about artists. When experienced in conversation with icons from our collection, lesser-known facets of Matisse’s work are revealed. For instance, the Expressionists drew heavily on the Fauves—seen beside Kirchner, you realize the rawness Matisse’s work has. And seeing how, in 1914, Matisse and Mondrian were both pushing towards abstraction, you witness two artists offering a very different, singular interpretation. Although Matisse’s work contained all the ingredients, he never embraced abstraction in its totality. For Matisse, the connection with reality was simply too compelling.”

The journey through the collection on the ground floor is a prelude to the later work of Matisse on the top floor. There, the presentation focuses on the paper cut-out The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952/53), from the Stedelijk collection. This perennial public favorite is displayed alongside several of the artist’s other monumental cut-outs, including Memory of Oceania from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Snail from the collection of Tate Modern, London, and The Sheaf from the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles—most of which are on display for the first time in the Netherlands. The presentation also features rarely-shown textile and stained glass artworks of Matisse.

Rutten says, “This year, our Parakeet has been one of the highlights in major Matisse exhibitions in London and New York. And there, too, the work has shown its remarkable ability to capture visitors’ hearts. When it returns to Amsterdam, it will be accompanied by spectacular works. International institutions such as the MoMA, Tate, the Musée Matisse, and Fondation Beyeler have been extremely generous to us. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to see Matisse’s cut-outs in the context that he intended, as Matisse also employed the cut-outs in designs for rugs, stained glass in the Vence Chapel, and beautiful chasubles.”

Joyous Oasis

As one of the founders of modern art, Matisse painted some of the most discussed and admired artworks of the first half of the twentieth century. Favorite subjects include interiors with Eastern nudes, colorful fabrics, carpets, potted plants, and idyllic landscapes, inspired by travels to Algeria, Morocco, Nice, and Tahiti. In these places Matisse found a paradise, which he captures in undulating lines and solid areas of color: “The Oasis of Matisse.”

Matisse later became an internationally celebrated artist. So it was all the more astonishing when, at the end of his life, he set off in an entirely new direction to make monumental, ornament-like cut-outs. But in surveying Matisse’s entire oeuvre, it is clear that from his earliest modern works until his death that the artist sought to evoke a bright, joyous simplicity with the minimum of means

The Parakeet and the Mermaid

Matisse was so dazzled by the overwhelming nature he experienced in Tahiti that at first he could find no fitting visual expression for it. Fifteen years later, his impressions of the oceanic paradise finally emerged in large works such as Océanie, la mer and Océanie, le ciel, and Polynésie, la mer and Polynésie, le ciel, executed both as paper cut-outs and as screen-prints on linen. The underwater plants that appear in The Parakeet and the Mermaid also feature in these works of all his cut-outs. Matisse worked longest on The Parakeet, a work he also considered one of his most successful. When confined to a wheelchair, Matisse called it “a little garden all around me where I can walk.”

Matisse’s cut-outs are not restricted to paintings, drawings, and sculpture; they also serve as a basis for monumental interior decorations with stained glass, tile tableaux, wall coverings, and the world-famous book, Jazz. By working in a wide spectrum of disciplines and mediums, Matisse strove to make his work accessible to a broad public, although remained committed to creating works in edition.

Ode to Matisse: Daniel Buren

Kaleidoscope, a site-specific artwork created by Daniel Buren for the Stedelijk’s grand staircase in 1976, will be installed especially for the exhibition. Kaleidoscope is an ode to Matisse and comprises 52 vertical bands that fill the spandrels throughout this space, as well as the transoms above the museum’s former main entrance. Buren used exactly the same colors as those in The Parakeet and the Mermaid (yellow, pale green, red, purple, orange, dark green, and blue); each color appears with precisely the same frequency as in Matisse’s iconic cut-out: 4x, 4x, 6x, 6x 10x, 10x, and 12x, respectively. 

The exhibition is curated by:

Bart Rutten, head of collections, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
Geurt Imanse, curator visual art
Suzanna Héman, assistant curator works on paper
Maurice Rummens, academic staff member
Ceciel Stoutjesdijk, curator in training
Exhibition design by Marcel Schmalgemeijer 


The Stedelijk is publishing a richly illustrated catalogue on the occasion of the exhibition. The publication contains a foreword by Stedelijk director Beatrix Ruf, an introduction by Bart Rutten and Geurt Imanse, and essays by Maurice Rummens and Patrice Deparpe, director of the Musée Matisse Le Cateau-Cambrésis. (approx. 200 pp, 150 illustrations, full color, € 25, price to be confirmed).

Education Program

The education program designed around the Matisse exhibition offers adults, youth, schools and colleges, and families a diverse range of exciting activities. Adults can explore the work of the artist in depth with the Stedelijk Academie. The museum’s peer educators, the Blikopeners, will give guided tours. Families can create cut-outs like Matisse’s in the Stedelijk’s Family Lab, now dubbed Henri’s Garden. The free family trail, Bonjour Henri, takes families on an exciting voyage of discovery through the work of Matisse.


Note to editors: 
The press preview for The Oasis of Matisse will be on Wednesday, March 25, 2015. Invitations will follow. For more information and images, please contact the Press Office of the Stedelijk Museum, +31 (0)20 573 26 660 / 656 or

The exhibition The Oasis of Matisse is made possible with the support of the benefactors of the Stedelijk Museum Fund, Fonds 21, Turing Foundation, Mondrian Fund and the additional support

of Saint-Gobain, AON Corporate Solutions, and K.F. Hein Fonds.

The Stedelijk Museum would like to express its sincere thanks to principal sponsor Rabobank Amsterdam for making this exhibition possible.