The opening of the new Matisse: Life in Color exhibition at the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) on Saturday morning drew modest crowds of locals and out-of-towers coming to see the modern master’s work, on view now through September 7.
(Read More: Why Matisse? Creativity Takes Courage)
Matisse’s art appeals to people of all ages. Kids like it because of the artist’s bold use of color, pattern, and shape to create scenes with recognizable imagery. Adults like it because the works are masterfully crafted to appear simple and straightforward. Matisse’s drawings, sculptures, and paintings portray people – often women – relaxed in everyday situations. The artist’s work is easy to for anyone to appreciate.
One visitor, Gerrie Gustafson, a docent at the Rockford Museum in Illinois, said she particularly enjoys Matisse’s paintings of Nice featured in the exhibition. They remind her of the time she once spent visiting the picturesque French beaches.
Gustafson, and her friend Alice Enichen, are visiting San Antonio with a group of young music students. They came to SAMA after seeing the billboards promoting the exhibition around town.
If the same exhibition were in Chicago, they said, “it would be so packed that you’d be bumping shoulders with people.”
They were thrilled to stumble across such a “superb exhibition.”
Helena Hanor, age nine and a half, says she likes Matisse’s “bright colors.”
Her art teacher shared Mattise’s work at school, and Helena likes his paintings best. She came to see Matisse: Life in Color with her mother, who also had seen the billboards advertising the exhibition. The Hanors, whose museum membership had expires, decided to renew their membership in order to see the Matisse exhibition for free. Helena’s mother had expected larger crowds the morning of opening day, but was pleasantly surprised to enjoy Matisse’s works up-close and at a mellow pace.
Several visitors attended the exhibition in celebration of Father’s Day weekend. Alecia Milner, a 19-year-old college student, came to the museum with her parents while on break, though she calls Virginia home. She grew up in Washington, D.C. and frequented museums with her dad, an avid art aficionado.
This was Milner’s first visit to SAMA, and she enjoyed the smaller more intimate feel of the museum, compared to major museums in D.C.
“It’s nice to be able to focus on the life and progression of one artist’s work, which you don’t get to see as much in larger museums with huge collections,” she said. “You can really get more personal and in-depth with the artists here.”
Milner said the advantage of living in D.C. is that all the museums are free. “When I was in high school I went to museums all the time. As a college student, it’s harder to go to museums as often when it costs money each time you visit and you’re on a budget.”
The cost for an adult to attend the Matisse exhibition is $25 (children under five get in free), which definitely makes the $45 annual adult membership worthwhile. Members get unlimited free entrance to the museum as well as to special exhibitions and events. Purchase tickets ahead of time here.
Luis and Elizabeth Haro also came to the exhibit for Father’s Day. They enjoyed being able to see a “nice big collection of one artist’s style and evolution, from simple sketches to some of his most famous works.”
Luis is a professor of biochemistry at The University of Texas at San Antonio, where he often integrates art into his lectures to get students interested in science. He shares artists such as his favorite, Diego Rivera, who has “a lot of scientific themes in his work, like in his famous Detroit Industry murals.”
Luis was excited to see one of his favorite Rivera paintings at SAMA, included in a small exhibition of Rivera’s work currently on view at the museum.
One group of art aficionados drove up from Laredo to see Matisse: Life in Color. Richard Hurtado and Hugo Rendon frequent museums all over the world, naming some of their favorites including MoMA in New York City and The Louvre in Paris, but they agreed it was impressive for SAMA to have such fantastic presentation of Matisse’s work.
SAMA is expecting Matisse: Life in Color to draw large crowds this weekend and throughout the summer as word spreads. The museum advises visitors to reserve a time online to stop by and will be limiting the number of people in the galleries to 80 guests every half-hour.
During the run of the exhibition there will be a special pop-up restaurant, Wild Beast, with Matisse-inspired entrées created by The Monterey’s Chad Carey, which opens Tuesday. Carey came up with the name for the restaurant, taking inspiration from the “Les Fauves,” French for wild beasts, a group of modern painters of which Matisse was associated.
“We were excited when the San Antonio Museum of Art asked us to create a temporary restaurant for the Matisse exhibition, mostly because we’ve always associated the spirit of The Monterey with Les Fauves, a movement led by Matisse that emphasized spontaneity, wild brushstrokes, and bright, vivid colors,” said Carey, a principle in the Empty Stomach restaurant investment group, which owns The Monterey, Hot Joy, and Barbaro. “That’s frighteningly close to our, ahem, ‘philosophy’ at The Monterey: exuberant, exaggerated, and a little bit wild.”
The pop-up restaurant will be open for breakfast, featuring treats from Bakery Lorraine, and lunch Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m and for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays, with a reservation required. Museum members will receive a 10 percent discount while dining, yet another incentive to join.
This summer you also can experience Matisse-inspired happenings around town at some of San Antonio’s favorite local spots. Stop by Bakery Lorraine to enjoy colorful and flavorful Matisse-inspired macarons.
“The lavender honey is so French and the apricot saffron reflects the North African influences in Matisse’s work,” say Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell, owners and pastry chef extraordinaire.
Savor artfully decorated Lily’s Cookies inspired by the shapes found throughout Matisse’s Jazz portfolio and collages and visit Bird Bakery to try “The Matisse,” a special seasonal summer cupcake available from mid-June through July.
Be on the lookout for the colorful Matisse B-cycle around town all summer. Anyone can enter a weekly drawing for two tickets to the exhibition by taking a photo of someone riding the Matisse B-cycle, posting it to B-cycle’s Facebook page, and tagging SAMA.
You can also visit the McNay Art Museum to see Matisse and Picasso: A Friendly Rivalry from June 14 to August 10, 2014, an exhibition from the McNay’s rich holdings of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and theater designs will juxtapose the two visionaries’ unique styles.
As much as San Antonio likes Matisse, I would venture to guess that Matisse would have also liked San Antonio. He might have found inspiration in San Antonio’s Mexican influence of bold color and pattern. Like the settings in his paintings, the vibe here is laid back – and of course, we have beautiful women, contrary to what Charles Barkley might think.
Matisse emphasized that art is artificial. He did not believe, as others of his time, that “art is a window into another world,” but instead saw art as simply a creative representation of real life. Matisse’s colorful, idyllic and relaxed scenes portray people in everyday settings, though he painted from models in the controlled environment of his studio.
I think Matisse would have also appreciated the San Antonio River Walk. Its colorful and lush setting attracts tourists and locals alike, yet it is completely man-made — a successful illusion that has helped make San Antonio the uniquely beautiful city it is today.