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What Embarrassing Thing Happened to a Henry Matisse Work in 1961?

Henri Matisse was a French painter who lived between 1869-1954. He was one of the most famous artists of the 20th century and a proponent of Fauvism, a modern art movement of bold and vibrant art. "Le Bateau" is one of his well known works. It is a paper-cut of a blue boat and its reflection that Henri Matisse made in 1953.

Paper-cut art involved using cut pieces of paper painted with gouache paint. La Bateau was put on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1961 but a most embarrassing mishap occurred. The picture was displayed upside down for 47 days until Genevieve Habert, a visitor of the exhibition, realized the mistake and tried to warn museum administrators about it. When she was not taken seriously by the employees, she informed the New York Times.

The paper published a story on the matter on 5 December 1961. The exhibition director, Monroe Wheeler, corrected the mistake the following day.

More about upside-down paintings:

  • Several of Jackson Pollock's paintings were hung upside down at the Ivan Dougherty Gallery in Sydney, Australia in 1978.

  • Georgia O'Keeffe's painting, "The Lawrence Tree," was hung upside down for 10 years by the Wadsworth Anthneum Museum of Art in Connecticut, USA, between 1979 and 1989.

  • Mark Rothko's two paintings were hung upside down at Tate Modern Museum in London, Britain in 2008.

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