Did the Museum of Modern Art Hang a Matisse Painting Upside Down for Over a Month?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to paintings and painters and whether they are true or false.

PAINTING URBAN LEGEND: Henry Matisse’s Le Bateau was hung upside down at the Museum of Modern Art for 47 days.

Henri Matisse was one of the most famous artists of the 20th Century.

One of the leading figures of the modern art movement, Matisse was primarily known for his expressive usage of color in his work.

His style changed dramatically over the years, and by the end of his life (he died in 1954), he was working primarily in “paper-cut” paintings, where he would cut out pieces of paper and he would arrange them along with paint into interesting configurations.

One of these works was called La Bateau, and it was finished in 1953, a year before his death.

It’s a beautiful piece of work.

In any event, in 1961, the piece was hung at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

There was just one problem.


The painting hung upside down for a remarkable 47 days until a stockbroker named Genevieve Habert noticed the mistake. Habert wrote a letter to the New York Times about the situation. Through the Times, the Museum was notified and they quickly corrected their mistake.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, upside down the piece still looks good…

But that’s still a pretty hilarious mistake to make!

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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One Response to “Did the Museum of Modern Art Hang a Matisse Painting Upside Down for Over a Month?”

  1. That’s one ugly painting.

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