Publisher: Mikawaya Seiemon. “Geisha Standing beside the Entrance of the Umewaka Restaurant (Detail)." 19th century. The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland. BMA 1950.2001.41

The Art of Pattern: Henri Matisse and Japanese Woodcut Artists


This exhibition pairs Henri Matisse’s compositions with those of 19th-century Japanese woodcut artists to explore the global appeal of color and pattern across space and time. The Art of Pattern: Henri Matisse and Japanese Woodcut Artists features several paintings and prints by Matisse from the 1920s, with posed models and heavily patterned interior backgrounds, reflecting the artist’s interest in layering his works from this period with decorative items from around the world. He incorporated prints and patterns into his compositions to create and define spaces, constructing a theatrical setting for his subjects to inhabit.

In contrast to Matisse, Japanese woodcut artists working in the 19th century depicted their female subjects more often in public spaces clothed in layers of ornately decorated robes. Prints by some of Japan’s most popular woodcut artists—Kikugawa Eizan, Keisai Eisen, and Utagawa Kunisada—show glamorized courtesans and entertainers frequently depicted as though on parade. The exhibition also features a vibrant sash supplementing those shown in the prints.