Art: Good Impressions

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It isn't often that we get to see an exhibition of work by Henri Matisse in London, let alone a selling exhibition, let alone two of them at once. So, thanks are due to the Lumley Cazalet and to the Alan Cristea Gallery for their current shows devoted to one of the century's greats and for providing those who have the funds with an opportunity to take a little bit of the great man home.

Actually, you don't have to be a millionaire to own something by Matisse. Prices at Alan Cristea start at pounds 250 for a linocut illustration to Mallarme's Pasiphae, which has to be one of Cork Street's better bargains, and spiral upwards from there. Both of these galleries are basically print dealers, and at Alan Cristea that's what's on show - more than 50 years of aquatints, lithographs, etchings and linocuts, from Matisse's Gravant, a self-portrait of the artist learning the etcher's art in 1900 - the first print that he made - to his last series of aquatints, from 1952.

At Lumley Cazalet, they've gone outside their usual world to put together a group of "Twenty Paintings and Drawings", which sounds like a very grand proposition for a commercial gallery, though in fact it includes only four paintings and just one for sale - a tiny canvas of Henriette Darricarrere (right), Matisse's favourite model in the 1920s, painted in Nice in 1923. It's a nice little thing, about the size of a postcard, fluidly painted, but not by any stretch of the imagination a major work.

In fact, I'm not sure that you'd pick Matisse out as one of the greatest artists of the century on the strength of either of these exhibitions, though, that said, there are some good things mixed in, especially among the Lumley Cazalet drawings, which include two or three examples of his brilliant doodling and economy of line, and a splendidly sexy ink drawing, Nu Allonge au Chien. It's all a bit black and white for a man who once claimed to "feel through colour", but well worth seeing nonetheless.

`Henri Matisse': Lumley Cazalet, W1 (0171-491 4767) to 31 July; and Alan Cristea Gallery, 31 Cork Street, W1 (0171-439 1866) to 1 Aug