David was out of town so Monica asked me to go to a “Members Preview” at the Museum of Modern Art of “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917.” This exhibit explores a period of transition in the artist’s life, showing most of the oil paintings he created during this phase as well as the graphite sketches, ink drawings and sculptures that he worked out as he pursued his vision, which essentially meant the journey from impressionism (or is that post-impressionism) to cubism. He was both visionary and meticulous. The core of this exhibit are the series of “Bather” paintings. Based on a Cezanne painting—Three Bathers—in fact, the Cezanne painting, which apparently was owned by Matisse, begins the show. Then, as you walk through the exhibit, you see the artist’s obsessive pursuit. There are dozens of pen and ink sketches of women, their thighs and backs. You see his sketch pads. The same image repeated, rendered with one or two strokes. He did sculptures, plastic and bronze casts, trying to capture the essence of this human form. When it finally came to making a canvass, he would work on some for years. The culmination is the painting Bathers by the River, completed after World War I. This exhibit will get a lot of media attention because, in addition to borrowing work from collections worldwide, digital technology is used to trace the evolution of the painting, analyzing versions of the painting as well as photographs of Matisse and the work in progress taken during this period by an American photographer. What you see is how art informs art, how we went from impressionism (or is Cezanne post-impressionism) to cubism. His first “Bathers” were in a watercolor, soft and naturalistic. A middle work is “Bathers with a Turtle,” a finished oil painting. The colors are lush. The emotions are naturalistic and romantic, like a memory of idealized times. Naked humanity, a gentle turtle… the simple pleasures and splendor of the natural world. And then, Cubism is born. The images feature hard lines, industrial age. The green in the earlier versions is soft, the foliage a blend of wilderness. The last version, look at those sharp, angular blades of grass. The pastoral romance is gone, no longer relevant or even remembered. We enter an era of alienation. He painted this during World War I. The 20th Century is in full swing. The colors while still vivid look brightly artificial, not as romantically pastoral. Made me sad realizing Matisse was realizing in art the new world of a more violent and de-humanized century. He moved ahead step by step, finding his vision. The works he is most famous for came after this period. He wasn’t looking back, something this exhibit luckily allows us to do.