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Richard Diebenkorn’s Painterly Man Crush, in Pictures

A study in influence at SFMOMA. 


Left: Matisse's Notre Dame, a Late Afternoon (1902)
Right: Diebenkorn's Ingleside (1963)

“In the Matisse, you have a view from the artist’s studio to the great cathedral. In the Diebenkorn, we as the viewer are standing in the middle of the street in [Ingleside],” Bishop says. “Both paintings have an S curve that leads you to paired vertical forms in the background.”

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Left: Matisse's Woman with a Hat (1905)
Right: Diebenkorn's Seated Figure with a Hat (1967)

Both paintings feature the artists’ wives—Amélie Matisse and Phyllis Diebenkorn. But the similarities run deeper still. “There’s this wonderful brushwork in the background, where you can see traces of the canvas in earlier states,” Bishop says of Matisse. “Diebenkorn did the same thing. He loved painting and painting over.”

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Left: Matisse's View of Notre Dame (1914)
Right: Diebenkorn's Ocean Park #79 (1975)

“In 1966, Diebenkorn saw a Matisse retrospective at UCLA that included works he had never seen in person, including this one,” Bishop says. “It’s a familiar subject, but seen in a very different way. It’s pared down and abstract. Matisse was at his most radical. This wash of blue had a profound impact on Diebenkorn as he was making his Ocean Park series.”

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One was a Parisian postimpressionist; the other was a San Franciscan who helped launch the figurative movement. Nevertheless, Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn’s connections run deep, as made clear in SFMOMA’s upcoming exhibition Matisse/Diebenkorn (Mar. 11–May 29).

In the slideshow above, curator Janet Bishop explains their striking similarities. 


Originally published in the March issue of San Francisco

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