Author Archives: Katy Rothkopf

About Katy Rothkopf

Katy Rothkopf is the Senior Curator & Dept Head of European Painting & Sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

BMA Voices: The Blue Eyes

Henri Matisse. The Blue Eyes. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.259. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse. The Blue Eyes. 1935. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.259. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Katy Rothkopf, Senior Curator & Dept Head of European Painting & Sculpture

Henri Matisse’s small, but powerful, painting The Blue Eyes was created in 1935. It features an intimate view of Lydia Delectorskaya, a Russian woman who met the artist when she was hired as a nurse for his wife. Lydia began to model for the French master in 1935, later becoming his studio assistant, muse, and Matisse’s companion for the rest of his life.

In 1935, when The Blue Eyes was produced, Matisse was just starting to paint again after a three-year hiatus from making oil paintings. In the late 1920s, Matisse had received some criticism for producing so many decorative paintings of women in interiors, often dressed in exotic costumes. He decided to take a break, and travelled abroad, created his first illustrated book, as well as completed a major mural project for the Barnes Foundation outside of Philadelphia. When he returned to producing oil paintings in 1934, Matisse had a new sense of energy and excitement in his work. His exploration of space and his love of texture and pattern began to emerge in new ways.

During his hiatus, Matisse came to Baltimore to pay his condolences to Etta Cone, one of his most important collectors, whose sister Claribel had died the previous year. During that visit in 1930, he saw all of the wonderful pieces the Cone sisters had purchased for their collection, including his own works that he had not seen for a long time, as well as paintings by many of his great artistic heroes. After his visit Matisse and Etta became even closer friends. When the artist returned to making oil paintings in 1934, he began to make works with the Cone Collection in mind, wanting to ensure that Etta’s collection was as strong as it could be.

The Blue Eyes is a composition that seems very spontaneous and immediate, but, in fact, the artist worked on perfecting the pose several times. Matisse was very taken by this idea of a woman seated in a casual pose, leaning on the back of a chair with her head resting on her arms. While working on a drawing with a similar pose, Matisse took photographs of the work in progress and sent them to Etta. She was so taken with the images that she could not resist purchasing the related painting from her favorite artist.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Reproduction, including downloading of Henri Matisse works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

BMA Voices: Strolling with Pissarro

Camille Pissarro. Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire. 1864. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.45.221

Camille Pissarro. Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire. 1864. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.45.221

Katy Rothkopf, Senior Curator & Dept Head of European Painting & Sculpture

When I arrived at the Museum almost 15 years ago, I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the paintings in the collection. I was particularly intrigued by this small work by Camille Pissarro, Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire, which looked so different from the other paintings by the Impressionist artist that were much more familiar to me. The way he applied paint to the canvas, the sense of structure and form, and the clear use of light were all were very different from his more typical Impressionistic explorations of light and color. This interest led to a research project, culminating in a major exhibition, where we traced Pissarro’s evolution from a young artist, struggling to produce large paintings for the annual Salon exhibitions in Paris, to the Impressionist master that is so well known today.

In 1864, Pissarro produced this intimate view of the countryside near the Marne River east of Paris. He had arrived in Paris from his home of St. Thomas in 1855, and spent time studying in small studios, becoming friends with younger painters, such as Paul Cézanne and Claude Monet. At that time, to receive recognition from critics and the general public, artists submitted works to the annual Salon held in Paris, where a jury would carefully choose works for the show. Pissarro had modest success exhibiting in the annual Salons of the 1860s with several large landscape paintings that are similar in style to Strollers on a Country Road, La Varenne Saint Hilaire, but he was soon looking for another way to express his artistic vision.

In the late 1860s, Pissarro moved to Louveciennes, a small town west of Paris. There he was able to spend more time with his Impressionist colleagues, becoming fascinated with working outdoors. In the winter of 1869-70, after a series of snowstorms, Pissarro and Monet painted the unique quality of the atmosphere and light in winter side by side. Pissarro’s works subsequently became more experimental and innovative. In 1874, the first Impressionist exhibition was held in Paris, where progressive artists could show their work without a jury, allowing new artistic freedom for the first time. The Impressionists held eight independent shows between 1874 and 1886, with Pissarro as the only artist to exhibit in all of them.

Read more about this work in A hidden Pissarro.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: Paul Cézanne’s “Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry”, c. 1897.

Paul Cézanne. Mont Sainte Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry. c. 1897. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.196

Paul Cézanne. Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry. c. 1897. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA 1950.196

Katy Rothkopf, Senior Curator & Dept Head of European Painting & Sculpture, describes removing the yellowing varnish from Paul Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire Seen from the Bibémus Quarry, c. 1897, and discovering surprising and stunning colors underneath.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Related: Laura Alban’s post on Leon Kroll.

BMA Voices: On Richard Diebenkorn’s “Woman Seated in a Chair”, 1963.

Richard Diebenkorn. Woman Seated in a Chair. 1963. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Thomas E. Benesch Memorial Collection, BMA 1970.21.3. © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn. Woman Seated in a Chair. 1963. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Thomas E. Benesch Memorial Collection, BMA 1970.21.3. © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Katy Rothkopf, Senior Curator & Dept Head of European Painting & Sculpture, discusses Richard Diebenkorn’s Woman Seated in a Chair, 1963, and Diebenkorn’s artistic relationship to Henri Matisse.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.