September 8, 2005

MoMa acquires Matisse unseen since 1970

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A valuable painting by Henri Matisse
that disappeared into private hands more than 30 years ago has
been acquired by New York's Museum of Modern Art which said on
Thursday it would put it on show this month.

Painted in strong red tones, "Plum Blossoms, Ochre
Background" shows a woman with a blank face sitting at a table
in front of a vase of flowers and fruit on a plate.

The work dates from 1948 and is one of his later paintings
before his death in 1954, the museum said in a statement. It
was last seen in public in Paris at the Grand Palais in 1970
and was then sold to an unidentified buyer.

The museum does not disclose financial details of its
acquisitions but The New York Times said a work of such rarity
would probably sell for around $25 million, taking into account
its size of nearly 3 feet by 4 feet.

The work was created as one in a series of seven large
paintings made in 1947 and 1948 depicting the interior of the
artist's working space in Vence, in southern France. The other
six are held by public collections or foundations.

"The Vence interiors are justly celebrated as the crowning
achievement of Matisse's superb contribution as a painter,"
said John Elderfield, the museum's chief curator of painting
and sculpture.

"After completing the Vence interiors, Matisse made only
two unfinished paintings; making paper cut-outs was his main
artistic activity in his last years," Elderfield said.

The painting was bought and donated to the collection by
the new president of the museum's board, Marie-Josee Kravis,
and her husband Henry Kravis.