Le Bateau – Upside-Down
On December 4 of 1961 the Museum of Modern Art in New York realized that it had hung Henri Matisse’s, Le Bateau, upside down for 47 days. They figure an estimated 116,000 people visited the exhibition and no one noticed… except Genevieve Habert, a Wall Street stockbroker checking out the exhibit. It was her third visit to the show.
She notified a museum guard who couldn’t believe his colleagues would have made a mistake like that. The guard responded, “You don’t know what’s up and you don’t know what’s down and neither do we.” Even the artist’s son and art dealer, Pierre Matisse, hadn’t noticed the error.
Without getting anyone to listen, Genevieve notified the New York Times who then notified the Director of Exhibitions, Monroe Wheeler.
The gouache was rehung properly the next day. Habert said that she felt the artist, “would never put the main, more complex motif on the bottom and the lesser motif on the top.” Don’t tell anyone but I wouldn’t have noticed either.
Le Bateau (The Boat) is a paper cut, composed from pieces of paper painted with gouache created during the later years of Matisse’s life.
[Gouache is one type of watermedia, paint consisting of pigment, water, a binding agent (usually gum arabic), and sometimes additional inert material. Gouache is designed to be used with opaque methods of painting. The term, derived from the Italian guazzo, also refers to paintings using this opaque method. ~ Wikipedia]
In researching this story I found two other instances where the work of a couple of my favorite artists were hung upside-down.
The Lawrence Tree
The Lawrence Tree, by Georgia O’Keeffe, was hung upside-down from 1979 to 1989 at the Wadsworth Anthneum in Hartford Connecticut. National Gallery of Art officials discovered letters from O’Keeffe complaining that the work had been hung the wrong way in a 1931 exhibition. The manner she describes it hanging was the same way it was hung at Wadsworth.
When viewed on the internet we find it is presented the wrong way 95% of the time, upside-down.
The Lawrence Tree – upside-down
The Lawrence Tree was inspired by a tree on the ranch of author D.H. Lawrence. The ranch, near Taos, New Mexico, was visited often by O’Keeffe. In her own words:
“…There was a long weathered carpenter’s bench under the tall tree in front of the little old house that Lawrence had lived in there. I often lay on that bench looking up into the tree…past the trunk and up into the branches. It was particularly fine at night with the stars above the tree.”
Long Grass with Butterflies
One other painting I came across is Long Grass with Butterflies by Vincent van Gogh, hung upside-down at the National Gallery in London.
Long Grass… upside-down
Enjoy some of Matisse’s art:
Sorrow of the King
Polynesia the Sea
Large Reclining Nude
The Parakeet and the Mermaid
La Danse (second version)
Still Life with Purro
matisse study / 16 x 20
S0151109 Monnet(?), Henri. Henri Matisse in front of “La Danse” (background) and Still-Life “A la Danse” in his studio in Issy. 1909 or 1912 28 x 22 cm. *Credit must include: the Pierre Matisse Gallery Archives. the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, MA 5020* Image licenced to Laurie Kind High Museum of Art by Laurie Kind Usage : – 3000 X 3000 pixels (Letter Size, A4) © The Pierpont Morgan Library / Art Resource