Skip to content Skip to footer

Fridays, November 11 – December 9, 12 – 2pm


Henri Matisse. Reclining Nude with Blue Eyes (detail), 1936. BF955. © 2022 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

$220; members $198
(4 classes; no class Nov 25)

About the Class

In celebration of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s exhibition Matisse in the 1930s, this course explores a critical decade in Henri Matisse’s career—one that helped reshape the artist’s vision and working process for years to come. Taught by two leading Matisse scholars, this course looks closely at select works from the exhibition, alongside paintings from the Barnes collection, to discuss key themes: the relationships across formats such as artist’s books and murals; the incorporation of photography and paper cut-outs into his painting process; and the dynamic between artist and model, especially in his collaboration with studio manager and model Lydia Delectorskaya.

Crucially, we ground these issues in a broader historical context, to consider how Matisse's work was exhibited and discussed in its day, the impact of the World Wars that bracket this period, the political dimensions of Matisse’s famous voyage to Tahiti, and the claims of sublimated voluptuousness made for his images of the female body. The teaching format, based on dialogue between two instructors with different but overlapping points of view, will expose students to a range of interpretive strategies. There will also be space for student questions and discussion. Students will emerge with a larger, more complex sense of the PMA exhibition’s studio-centered story.

The class is online-only. More about online classes.


Henri Matisse. Reclining Nude with Blue Eyes, 1936. BF955. © 2022 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Camran Mani

Mani is a PhD candidate in the history of art and architecture at Harvard University, with a dissertation on Matisse and public space between the World Wars. As a curatorial fellow at the Harvard Art Museums, he supervises academic and public programs, including the Ho Family Student Guide Program. His research and writing on modernist art has contributed to major exhibition projects, including Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917 at the Art Institute of Chicago, Cézanne and Beyond at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and The Bauhaus and Harvard at the Harvard Art Museums.

Ellen McBreen

McBreen is professor and co-chair of the Visual Art and History of Art Department at Wheaton College, Massachusetts, where she is also director of the Wheaton Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. She is the author of Matisse’s Sculpture: The Pinup and the Primitive (Yale University Press, 2014) and essays exploring how and why visual culture by African makers was appropriated by those in Europe and the US. She has curated exhibitions including Migrating Objects: Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 2020) and Matisse in the Studio (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Royal Academy, London, 2017).

Art in Context

Art in Context courses connect works of art to history: What was happening politically, socially, and culturally at the time a piece was made? How did these circumstances shape the artist’s formal choices?