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Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press
Victor Bissonnette, left, and Ross Cotts handle the bronze "Jean d'Aire," by Auguste Rodin, while installing the Matisse exhibit.

DALLAS — A new exhibit will focus on sculptures by Henri Matisse, the French artist best known for his vibrant paintings.

The exhibit "Matisse: Painter as Sculptor" showcases more than 150 works — including more than 40 sculptures — and gives a glimpse of how Matisse explored recurrent themes as he worked in mediums including sculpture, painting, sketches and even paper cutouts.

"It's almost as if you see his paintings and sculpture come together," said Dorothy Kosinski, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Dallas Museum of Art.

The joint exhibition between the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Center, which are next door to each other in downtown Dallas, opens today and runs through April 29. The exhibit will then travel to San Francisco and Baltimore.

Matisse would do several versions of the same idea in various mediums. The exhibition showcases that by displaying related works together. The bronze sculpture "Reclining Nude I (Aurora)," for example, is displayed near the painting "Blue Nude: Memory of Biskra," both depicting a nude woman in the same pose.

"You see him working on his ideas," Kosinski said.

The show also gives examples of the interaction between artists. Matisse's sculpture called "The Serf" is flanked by a sculpture of the same model by Auguste Rodin.

The exhibit will also feature works by artists such as Paul Cezanne, Edgar Degas and Matisse's rival and friend, Pablo Picasso.

"I think people will come away with a different view of who Matisse was," Kosinski said.

At the Nasher Sculpture Center, the star of the show will be a series of four bronze reliefs called "The Backs," done over a period from 1909 to 1930. The first piece shows a realistic looking human back, which progresses to an abstract depiction in the last piece.

"'The Backs' are utterly incredible," said Raymond Nasher, founder of the Nasher Sculpture Center. "You can see it turning from the total figurative to the abstract."

Steven Nash, director of the Nasher, said that the four pieces have a powerful presence. "Of all his works of sculpture, these I would say are the most aggressive," he said.

Computers will also be available at the exhibit for visitors to compare the differences of different casts of the same work by viewing laser scans.

The exhibit will be at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from June 10 to Sept. 2.