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NPR: Matisse and Diebenkorn ‘Meet’ at Last, at the Baltimore Museum of Art

Heard on Morning Edition, Susan Stamberg
oakland1962

Throughout his career, American artist Richard Diebenkorn studied the work of French painter Henri Matisse. They never met in real life, but a new exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art feels like a conversation between the two artists. Diebenkorn is shown above in his studio in Oakland, Calif., in 1962. © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

A “conversation” between two major artists — Henri Matisse of France, and Richard Diebenkorn of the U.S. — is taking place on the walls of the Baltimore Museum of Art. The two artists never met, but Matisse influenced Diebenkorn’s work, across decades and continents.

Matisse’s great-granddaughter and Diebenkorn’s daughter got to see the exhibition before it opened to the public; Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, 71, and Sophie Matisse, 51, met for the first time at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

“My whole life we all looked at Matisse the whole time,” Grant tells Matisse.

“That’s funny, me too,” Matisse laughs.

Curator Katy Rothkopf began thinking about getting Matisse and Diebenkorn (the painters, not the descendants!) together some 15 years ago. She was poking through the Baltimore Museum’s storage room when inspiration struck.

“We had this spectacularly beautiful Diebenkorn drawing of a woman seated in a chair,” she says, “and realized it had incredible resonance with a Matisse drawing we also had of a reclining model with a flowered robe. They were made 40 years apart, and were done by men living in different places, with different lifestyles, but yet, here they were, needing to have a conversation.”

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