Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection (2016-2018)

A unique exploration of Matisse’s drawings by one of America’s greatest abstract artists. A selection of Ellsworth Kelly’s botanical lithographs is shown in an adjacent gallery.

Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly, a unique exploration of Henri Matisse’s drawings by one of America’s greatest abstract artists, provides new insight into the French master’s work. For this special exhibition, Ellsworth Kelly surveyed Matisse’s drawings from 1900 through 1950, revealing Matisse’s process and the range of his creativity as a draftsman. Many of the 45 works on view, from quick sketches to highly detailed images, have rarely or never-before been exhibited.

To accompany this display, Kelly selected work from his own large-scale Suite of Plant Lithographs (1964–66) for presentation in an adjacent gallery, illuminating both the sympathies and distinct differences between the two artists.

The entire installation, including frame choice and placement of works, was conceived by Kelly, and this is among the last exhibitions on which he worked before his death (December 27, 2015). In his tribute to Kelly, Jerry Saltz described him as “the artist I now think of as the American Matisse.”



Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC
June 25–September 18, 2016
Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY
October 23, 2016–January 29, 2017
Audain Art Museum, Whistler, Canada
February 24–May 22, 2017
University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, MI
November 18, 2017–February 18, 2018
Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA
June 9–September 2, 2018


Authors: John Stomberg, Ellsworth Kelly
Publisher: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, 2015
Dimensions: 9 x 1 x 12 in.
Format: Hardcover, 144 pp
ISBN: 978-0989083522

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue that features a new interview with Ellsworth Kelly, Kelly’s original installation plan, and a special plates section reproducing all of the works in the exhibition.


Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015), one of the most important practitioners of abstract art in the United States after World War II, gained an international reputation by the early 1950s. Throughout the past six decades, he created an extraordinary body of work comprising abstract painting and sculpture as well as figurative drawings and prints. Kelly’s work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at important institutions, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (1982), the Guggenheim Museum (1996), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1998), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2002), and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007).


Matisse Drawings: Curated by Ellsworth Kelly from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in collaboration with The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation.

The exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust and The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation. Additional support provided by the JFM Foundation, and Mrs. Donald M. Cox.