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A Parting Gift Before Matisse Leaves for MoMA


Unbelievably, Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917 is closing this Sunday, June 20. So it may seem strange that we are only now happily announcing the debut of an accompanying website rich with extensive information from the exhibition, including information about the artworks Bathers By a River and Back and featuring videos excerpts from A Great French Painter, Henri Matisse, 1946.

This resourceful website derives from the information kiosks that are currently installed in the exhibition’s reading room. As you read in my previous post Matisse Web Share, the research spanned years of collaborating and examining digital technical documents and source materials leading up to this major exhibition. And just as the research phase had been supported by online collaboration, the show’s co-curator, Stephanie D’Alessandro, also believed in supporting the exhibition with an interactive program. Kiosks were developed and placed in the exhibition’s reading room where a visitor can sit down and learn more about the exhibition’s themes. Larger monitors allow onlookers to watch the kiosks.


Initially, the kiosks were developed specifically for these large high-resolution screens and not intended for the web. But exhibition visitors immediately enjoyed the kiosks and it became quickly obvious that the interactive should also be a resource for our web audiences—especially for visitors who would not be able to see the Matisse exhibition in person.

It all sounds so simple—take the kiosk interactive and put it on a website, right? Well, due to the size constraints of what is responsible to put on the web, it took a re-envisioning of the content to preserve the integrity of the kiosk’s message. We needed a new approach to the website’s design to make the interactive fit into an average-sized web browser. All of the images and text needed to be viewable and the message of the kiosk needed to remain intelligible.

The resulting website makes use of scrolling to allow images with contextual narrative to be viewed with images of the artworks at different states of completion. Additionally, many pages have a second page with an interactive component for a more deep exploration into that state.

Much of the website’s content derives from the scholarly essays in the exhibition’s accompanying catalogue, but the website takes advantage of multimedia opportunities. For example, for the iconic Bathers By a River painting, a visitor can explore the evolution of the painting over time by overlaying outlines of the painting at different stages.


While the web site may be coming late in the run of the exhibition, I like to think of it as a parting gift—something that can be used as a resource well into the future. Additionally, the website will be featured with the exhibition as it moves to MoMA in New York next month.

And, don’t forget, you do still have a few days left to catch the exhibition live in Chicago before it closes on June 20.