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A Rare Collection: Matisse in St. Louis

A Rare Collection: Matisse in St. Louis

Photo By Alise O'Brien

More than 50 works from renowned French artist Henri Matisse are all in one place, right here in St. Louis. Longtime gallery owner Ronnie Greenberg says he started thinking about building a collection with his first Matisse acquisition.

“Here’s an artist that does everything well. He draws, he paints, he sculpts, he’s got all of these kinds of facilities at his fingertips and besides him and of course Picasso they’re the two most important early 20th century artists,” Greenberg says.

So Greenberg and a friend in England spent several months scouring auctions, estates and private owner availability, purchasing a vast selection of Matisse’s work. “Some are easy stories to get, some are a lot harder. When you’re buying something from an individual it’s very difficult sometimes to get it away from them because they feel very close to them and they don’t want to part with them,” says Greenberg of his pursuit.

The pieces in the collection range in dates from Matisse’s early period well into his later years of work (1869-1954). There are portraits of his wife and daughter, drawings, lithographs, etchings, dry-points, aquatints and linocuts- a mix of pencil and ink.

Greenberg says, “I’m often accused of having art that’s too expensive for people to buy so this is something that’s very affordable. The prints and etchings start at $15,000 and go up. The drawings are obviously more expensive than that. Matisse is a great artist and I think his prints are reasonably priced and I think that they are a great thing for St. Louis.”

The Greenberg Gallery first launched in 1972 as a small contemporary art gallery across the street from the old Famous-Barr in Clayton. It later moved to the Central West End in Maryland Plaza, then Washington Avenue before Greenberg says he sold the building to Jazz at the Bistro and returned to Clayton a few years ago, only this time on Bemiston. Greenberg owned three galleries in New York for 20 years, but has always kept a gallery in St. Louis.

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