'20th century's greatest artist' makes first ever Florida appearance

Prints, paintings and sculpture by Henri Matisse, one of the 20th century's greatest artists, will be displayed at the inaugural show at the Tampa Museum of Art's new riverfront building.

The unique display, A Celebration of Henri Matisse, will be the first major Matisse show to visit Tampa Bay in Florida.

It will is also be the first comprehensive exhibition to chronicle the modern master's lifelong interest in printmaking.

The exhibition will occupy the museum's 5,000-square-foot special exhibitions gallery on the second floor of the $36m project.

The majority of the 170 works are prints, with about half from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation and the remainder from the Baltimore Museum of Art where the exhibition originates.

Many of the works will be exclusive to the Tampa exhibition and some of the prints have never been publicly exhibited.

"We want to set the stage for future exhibitions that deal with modern and contemporary art," said Todd Smith, the Tampa Museum director who has been working on getting the show for about six months.

"Matisse is one of the giants," he told the St Petersburg Times.

Major Matisse exhibitions in the past have focussed on his paintings, featuring startling colours and flat perspectives. But he was also a prolific printmaker, sculptor and draftsman, and the prints in the expo will reflect his later fascination with pure line and abstract shapes.

Matisse's limited-edition prints are rarely seen in such quantity: the paper-based works are more fragile than paint on canvas and subject to fading, so are mostly kept in dark vaults and displayed infrequently.

This expo will span his career, from his early student days working in a formal, academic tradition, through his early experiments in post-impressionism and wild colours, to his later periods of greater refinement and simplification.

The last print, made in 1950, four years before his death, is a colourful interior inhabited by a young woman.

The exhibition will continue at the Tampa Museum of Art through April 18.

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