An Upside-Down Matisse at the MoMA

TITLE: "Le Bateau (The Boat)"

ARTIST: Henri Matisse

DATE: 1953

WHY WE CHOSE IT: Fifty years ago today, on October 18, 1961, “The Last Works of Henri Matisse” opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. For 47 days, an estimated 116,000 people visited the exhibition, yet nobody noticed the problem with one particular work of art hanging in a corner on the museum’s ground floor.

It wasn’t until Sunday, December 4, towards the close of the exhibition, that a stockbroker named Genevieve Habert, pointed out the mistake. That day, on her third visit to the show, she realized Matisse’s Le Bateau was hanging upside-down! Even the artist’s son, dealer Pierre Matisse, hadn’t detected the error.

Habert alerted a museum guard—who didn’t believe his colleagues would’ve made such a mistake—so she later informed the New York Times, who in turn notified Monroe Wheeler, the MoMA’s Director of Exhibitions and Publications. As a result, the gouache was properly rehung on Monday. At the time, Habert said she felt that the artist “would never put the main, more complex motif on the bottom and the lesser motif on the top.”

SOURCE: Museum of Modern Art

The Mysterious Death of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, Park West Gallery

TITLE: “Wheatfield with Crows”

ARTIST: Vincent van Gogh

DATE: 1890

WHY WE CHOSE IT: Was it suicide, or murder? More than 120 years since the artist’s death, a new biography, "Van Gogh: The Life," by Pulitzer prize-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, presents a compelling argument which, if proven, could dramatically alter art history. 

Vincent van Gogh was just 37 years old when he died on July 29, 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise, France. Many scholars claim that Wheatfield with Crows, executed in July 1890, was the painter’s last work, ominously foreshadowing his own death. It has even been speculated that the post-Impressionist shot himself that very same day, in that very same field. But Naifeh and Smith’s new theory argues that the painting was probably created days earlier, and van Gogh may have actually been murdered.

SOURCE: Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam