Thursday, July 29, 2010

Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917

He returned from Morocco in 1913, and before departing from Paris to Nice in 1917, painted some of his most challenging works. In the geometric construction of the paintings, you can see his response to Cubism, and in his use of blacks and grays his response to World War I. Instead of focusing on the aesthetic or political context of this body of work, the MoMA show throws a light on its physical production, how Matisse scratched and etched and repainted the canvases, or else left them "unfinished." The result is an exciting glimpse into Matisse at work in his studio.

Why the physical effort, and then to leave the evidence so clearly on the paintings? Matisse wanted to fight in the war but was rejected because of his influenza. poor eyesight and age. He spoke (or wrote?) about fighting the war in his own way, on his canvases, and so he did, I believe. But who was he fighting against? Not the Tradition, which he loved, but Himself. He fought to paint a different way from how he painted before. All that he upheld, prized, identified with, all that had to be thrown down. In overcoming himself, he became a force that cannot be dismissed.

The Window (1916)

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