Totally Geeked Out: Matisse/Diebenkorn by Norbert Marszalek

I love Matisse and I love Diebenkorn so it was difficult to contain my enthusiasm as I ventured off to the Baltimore Art Musuem to see the Mattisse/Diebenkorn exhibition.

And let me tell you the payoff is huge. There are more than 90 paintings and drawings comprising this phenomenal must-see show.

It’s a well known fact that Diebenkorn was influenced by Matisse. Diebenkorn collected many Matisse books and catalogs over the years and was very open about the passion he felt for Matisse’s work.

We can see that Diebenkorn’s extraordinary Ocean Park series blossomed out of Matisse’s View of Notre Dame, French Window at Collioure, The Piano Lesson and On the Terrace. And there is also Diebenkorn’s use of Matissian patterns in works like Recollections of a Visit to Leningrad and Large Still Life.

What surprised me and what makes this exhibiton extra special is how deep the connection is between Diebenkorn and Matisse. Curator Katy Rothkopf deserves a standing ovation for putting this exhibition together.

Diebenkorn was first introduced to Matisse’s work in 1943 when his art teacher Daniel Mendelowitz took him to the house of Sarah Stein (Sarah’s husband Michael was the brother of Leo and Gertrude), who had been an important early Matisse collector. It was the Matisse Retrospective in Los Angeles in 1952 though that made the most lasting impression with Diebenkorn stating,“It absolutely turned my head around.”

The dialogue runs deep and we see it throughout Diebenkorn’s entire career starting with his Urbana and Berkley series and culminating with Ocean Park.

There is not one piece in this show that should be overlooked and I have to admit I’m too overwhelmed and geeked out to write a full coherent review but I will share a couple of my personal favorite highlights.

I was awe struck first entering the exhibition seeing Diebenkorn’s early work Urbana #4, Urbana #2, Berkely #58, and Berkley #23 paired with Matisse’s Studio, Quai Saint Michel, Goldfish and Palette, and The Conversation. These early Diebenkorn’s are in the Abstract Expressionist vein but have a totally different vibe to what was coming out of New York at the time. I’ve never seen Diebenkorn’s early work in person before—let me just say, “Wow!” I had to tear myself away from Berkely #23.

Another hightlight on a more modest scale were the exquisite still life compositions with Diebenkorn’s Still Life with Orange Peel and Still Life with Orange Peel II along with Matisse’s Still Life with Blue Jug, Pansies, and Fruit Dish. Still life has always been meaningful to me. It’s fueling my current work.

See this show!

If you can’t make Baltimore the exhibition is traveling to San Francisco in March.

Baltimore Museum of Art
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art


The work of Norbert Marszalek was recently featured in New American Paintings, Midwest Issue #125. His work has also been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the United States, including the Froelick Gallery in Portland, Oregon; Holter Art Museum in Helena, Montana; Richard Levy Gallery in Albuquerque, New Mexico; the South Bend Regional Museum of Art in South Bend, Indiana; the Texas Artist Museum in Port Arthur; the International Museum of Art in El Paso, Texas; the Evanston Art Center in Evanston, Illinois; and the Nathan D. Rosen Museum Gallery in Boca Raton, Florida.