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Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013 12:01 am

An art guide to Indy

Museum riches await discovery four hours away

Matisse paintings such as “Purple Robe with Anemones” reveal his love of color and his emotions.


Indianapolis is known for the Pacers, the Colts and the Indy 500, but this heartland city has much more to offer. Indy has a wonderful mix of cultural treasures such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art, now hosting a special Matisse exhibition. More than 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints by Henri Matisse, one of the most influential French painters of the 20th century, are on view through Jan. 12 in “Matisse, Life in Color: Masterworks from the Baltimore Museum of Art.”

Indianapolis, about 200 miles from Springfield, makes for a colorful weekend getaway for art fans of all ages, starting with the Matisse exhibit and including stops at the American Indian museum and the city’s arts center.

The Matisse exhibit presents the artist’s works as related groups that helped him decide on his “final drafts.” In one room, visitors can view “The Yellow Dress” painting and the five working drawings that led up to the final version. Nearby are two sculptures, “Venus in a Shell,” and “Small Thin Torso,” on which Matisse worked at the same time. The artist liked to work out his painting problems by trying out ideas on the sculptures.

“Color is his first avenue of investigation,” said Rebecca Long, the curator of the Indianapolis show, since it was color that inspired Matisse to leave a career in law to become an artist. Throughout his career, he used color and rhythms of color in depicting still lifes, voluptuous models, lush settings and his own emotions. “The colors make them captivating works,” Long said, for both adults and children. Highlights of the show’s paintings include “Purple Robe and Anemones,” “Interior, Flowers and Parakeets” and “Large Reclining Nude.”

Most of the Matisse works on display belong to Baltimore’s Cone Collection, assembled by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone between 1898 and 1949. When they traveled to Paris in the early 20th century, the socialite sisters were introduced to Matisse and Picasso by their friends and fellow collectors, Gertrude and Leo Stein. Their Matisse collection is one of the most comprehensive in the world.

Beth Nybeck’s “Crescendo,” on the lawn at the Indianapolis Art Center, includes more than 6,000 blue tiles with comments from community members.

Thanks to the Indiana University Art Museum, several illustrations from Jazz, Matisse’s 1947 artist’s book that featured about 100 prints on paper cutouts, are also part of the exhibit. The Jazz prints are so inspiring that the exhibit includes a room filled with children’s Matisse-like drawings. The museum also makes iPads available to all visitors who get the urge to create.

Admission to the exhibit costs $18 for adults and $10 for students and children ages 7 to 17, with an audio guide included. Visitors also can use interactive iPads that are placed throughout the exhibit to learn more about Matisse. To order tickets and learn more, go to www.imamuseum.org.

More than 152 acres of gardens and grounds surround the art museum, located in a scenic area north of downtown. Oldfields, the former home and estate of the late Josiah K. Lilly, Jr., and a National Historic Landmark, is on the grounds, which also include a sculpture walk and a path that leads to the Central Canal Towpath and then across the canal to a 100-acre art and nature park.

The other major art attraction in Indianapolis is the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. Located in downtown Indianapolis, the Eiteljorg’s collection of Western art includes paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Robert Henri, Marsden Hartley and other artists who flocked to Santa Fe and Taos from the late 1890s to the late 1920s and fell in love with New Mexico’s mountains and pueblos.

The Native American collection contains traditional objects and works of historical significance from throughout the United States and Canada, including basketry, clothing and weaponry. There’s also an extensive collection of contemporary works of wood carvings, jewelry and Inuit sculpture.

“Interior, Flowers and Parakeets” was one of the colorful highlights of the Matisse exhibit.

From Nov. 23 to Jan. 19, the Eiteljorg’s “Jingle Rails” attraction of model trains takes visitors on a journey through replicas of Indianapolis sights and national parks in the West, such as Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. Contact www.eiteljorg.org for more information.

Indianapolis is also home to the Indianapolis Art Center, which has an art school, galleries and a 12-acre sculpture park. Visitors can take advantage of the two-hour art adventure classes for adults and children in glass, painting, jewelry and sculpture. Learn more at www.IndplsArtCenter.org.

“It’s a great place for people to transition to being a serious artist,” said Bob Reiberg, an Art Center faculty member who took his first class in 1989 and fell in love with ceramics, eventually leaving his teaching job and opening his own studio.

Just as Matisse knew that he needed to make art his life after his mother gave him a box of brilliantly colored paints, you can find inspiration and fun in Indy.  

Mary C. Galligan of Chicago has worked as an editorial writer for the Chicago Sun-Times and adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University. She and Mary Bohlen of Springfield write a monthly Midwest travel column for Illinois Times.

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