November 1, 2016
Have you ever noticed that something you’ve looked at for years can suddenly come alive and take you to a completely new place, enabling you see through new eyes?
That’s what happened to me with Matisse. I’d always liked his exuberant work but no more than dozens of other artists I admired.
Recently, several friends coincidentally sent me cards of his realistic paintings, then I ran across a larger reproduction of the woman above in a magazine, and voilà I was gob-smacked.
Reading of his life and taking some time to study his whole oeuvre, I began to understand why this artist and why now.
The obvious answer is that his whimsical and direct way of painting answered some call in me to be more direct in my own work. But going deeper revealed other insights.
What distinguished Matisse from many of his contemporaries was his refusal to be pigeon-holed in any one of the numerous movements in art that were coming and going at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th centuries. He flirted with Impressionism, worked in a neo-impressionist style, and was considered the French leader of the Fauvists.
But he only used each mode of working as long as it served his search for his true work. When he had integrated the techniques and philosophies of these approaches, he left them to continue his personal path of discovery.
One thing I love about his story is seeing how he was influenced by each of his encounters with contemporaries. And what contemporaries they were! He was good friends with Picasso,bought sketches by Cezanne early on, rubbed shoulders with Seurat and tried his hand at pointillism, and was blown away by Gaugin’s Tahiti paintings. Imagine being alive in those times with all of that going on! What a challenge to navigate these different streams and still come out with something original and authentic to your self. This is what touches me most about Matisse’s life long quest through painting.
Next time I’ll take you through some of his early paintings, and I’ll show the influences on his work and how he continually outgrew them.