Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A show that captures multiple facets of Henri Matisse’s oeuvre

The goal of an ongoing show, entitled ‘Matisse, In Search of True Painting’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is to encourage thinking about the legendary artist's method of painting using pairs, trios, and series. It is well apparent that, for him, the process of creation was not simply a means to an end but a dimension of his art as vital as the finished canvas itself.
  • The theme of the studio interior appealed to Henri Matisse throughout his career. In the mid-1940s, the nearly eighty-year-old artist was once again inspired to depict his studio, this time at the Villa Le Rêve in Vence.
  • These canvases-a series that was reproduced in the periodical Verve (Autumn 1948)-have been interpreted as a tour-de force of radiant color [Interior with an Egyptian Curtain (1948, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.), ‘Interior with Black Fern’ (1948, Fondation Beyeler, Basel), and ‘Large Red Interior’ (1948, Centre Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris).
  • Over a long and illustrious career, Henri Matisse approached his pairs in a variety of ways. Young Sailor II is a free copy, but he used a full-size cartoon and squaring in the creation of his next major pair, ‘Le Luxe I and II’ (1907, Centre Pompidou Paris, and 1907–08, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen). Painting in pairs offered him alternate solutions to any given pictorial challenge.
  • Painting sessions with the sensual Italian model Laurette over a period of six or seven months in 1916–17 were instrumental in reorienting Matisse as he abandoned the restrictions inherent in painting in pairs and fully embraced larger series.
  • Henri Matisse's enthusiasm for working in series coincided with his revived interest in Impressionism. It was very much on his mind when he attempted to capture the essence of a light-filled room in a series of paintings executed in Nice in the winter and spring of 1917–18.
  • A notable change occurred in Matisse's practice in the 1930s. He hired a photographer to document his work in progress. If the states of any given painting are thought of as a sequence of pictures—all different, yet nevertheless related solutions to the same problem—then the photographs of the painting-in-progress may be considered as yet another example of seriality in Matisse's art.
  • For Matisse, these photographed states served as visual documentation that could be used to explain his objectives. In December 1945, six paintings by Matisse were displayed at the Galerie Maeght in Paris, each accompanied by large framed photographs of its earlier states.

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