Gathered in a space with magnificent views across Paris, the star attractions from France’s Musée National d’Art Moderne beckon – sculptures, works on paper and of course, the paintings: the speckled rainbow of Luxe, calme et volupté (1904); the powdery, abstract blue, grey and green of the French Window at Collioure (1914), open to a prospect of unknowable, velvet black; the Portrait of Greta Prozor (1916), pensive and muted like her dusky backdrop, black felt hat and navy dress.
Here are the reclining Odalisque (1921) in carnal red harem pants, amid an orchestrated riot of pattern and colour; the serene features and trailing fingers of the sleeper in The Dream (1935), flesh pink on a sheet of ultramarine blue. Here, too, the billowing white sleeves and graphic embroidery of the Romanian Blouse (1940), dazzling against the model’s blue skirt and red backdrop and the black-cloaked, green-faced mandolin player in the monumental cut paper composition the Sorrows of the King (1952), framed in a swirl of autumn leaves.
Star guests from elsewhere include Matisse’s green-shaded self-portrait of 1906, from the National Gallery of Denmark; his daughter Marguerite, with her pink cheeks, black choker and determined stare, in a portrait from the personal collection of Pablo Picasso (1907); and the multi-layered Interior with Aubergines (1911) from the Musée de Grenoble, a visual puzzle of patterned wallpaper, textiles, reflections and views through an open door and window, brilliantly displayed and interpreted in an interior space all its own.
Six decades of work, each a new chapter in the story of art. Where to Begin? The title of (chronologically) the first space in the show acknowledges our disarray.