Henri Matisse’s “Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra),” on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Henri Matisse’s “Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra),” on view at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The Baltimore Museum of Art has received a $5 million gift to create a center to study the works of French modernist Henri Matisse, the museum announced today.

With more than 1,200 pieces, the BMA has one of the largest Matisse collections in the world, and the museum hopes the new center will serve as a resource for scholars and the general public.

The donation comes from the Ruth Carol Fund, and the new center will be named for its founder, philanthropist Ruth M. Marder. The museum will use the money to design and build a new space for the facility and start an endowment to fund operations.

“With the opening of The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies, we are creating new opportunities to engage our audiences with our collection and to spark new interests and conversations on Matisse’s influence on modern and contemporary art practice,” BMA director Christopher Bedford said in a statement.

In addition to providing a space for academics to research Matisse’s practice, the center will put on exhibitions and digitize works so they can be viewed all over the world.

The BMA’s massive Matisse collection began in 1949, when sisters Claribel and Etta Cone donated 500 artworks by the French master, along with pieces by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas and other early 20th century artists, forming the “crown jewel” of the BMA’s permanent collection.

The museum has acquired 700 additional works over the years, including some from the artist’s family.

“The creation of The Ruth R. Marder Center for Matisse Studies fulfills a long-term strategic goal for the BMA to present the breadth and depth of its Matisse holdings,” the BMA said in a release, “while also supporting the development of new scholarly publications that advance ongoing discussions on the trajectory of modern art and Matisse’s importance therein.”

Per The New York Times, there’s something of a gap in scholarly work on Matisse–unlike, say, Picasso, who’s been widely studied–because the artist’s archives have stayed in family hands.

“They don’t have the resources to help all the scholars that come begging at their door,” Yves-Alain Bois, a Matisse expert, told the Times. “If the center can help make materials readily available, it would be very helpful.”

An opening is scheduled for 2021.

Brandon Weigel is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of the University of Maryland, he has been published in The Washington Post, The Sun, Baltimore Magazine, Urbanite, The Baltimore...