Art: Matisse The Color of Genius

A sublime retrospective illuminates the mastery of a paladin of modernism

Sometimes an exhibition will define the work of a major artist for a whole generation. So with the Museum of Modern Art's Picasso retrospective in 1980. Now New York City's MOMA has done it again, with "Henri Matisse: A Retrospective" (through Jan. 12), devoting most of its space to an enormous survey of Matisse's paintings, drawings, collages and sculpture curated by art historian John Elderfield.

The last comparable Matisse show was organized in 1970 by Pierre Schneider in Paris, to mark the artist's centenary. It contained 250 works, and its catalog weighed 2 lbs. It seemed, at the time, exhaustive. This...

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