matisse: radical invention 1913-1917

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg, 1914.
Oil on canvas, 147.3 x 97.5 cm (58 x 38 3/8 in.) Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. © 2010 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.XX

from my new article for sloane, fall issue out next month–along with the mad museum write up on “dead or alive”:

“To be certain, the works here presented are important, “radical” and diverse, both in content and form and despite spanning only a few years.  But these hard and brilliant canvases, sculptures and prints come at first as such a shock that without spending some time walking back through the galleries, reading the text, and getting up close to examine them, regrettably, I think it likely that people will overlook what is most impressive and revelatory about the exhibition:  an artist in the middle of his life, laborious in his craft, reworking his own pieces by new methods to create different results, refusing to be prodded and provoked into making reactionary pieces, revealing a successful synthesis of formalism and experimentalism through various techniques. Lacking the ego and flamboyance of Picasso, who was rumored to call Matisse a “maker of bright ties” and whose “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” turned everything on its head only six years earlier, Matisse chose another route altogether:  he worked.  Instead of stylish upheaval on display, we have here a study of a man’s passion, harnessed and concentrated.  Matisse, the “Fauve” (“wild beast”), may have born his fury somberly but it drove him ceaselessly onward nevertheless, caused him to challenge himself repeatedly, carried and inspired him throughout his career despite the sufferings and interruptions of the war.”

Henri Matisse. The Moroccans. Issy-les-Moulineaux, late 1915 and fall 1916.  Oil on canvas. 71 3/8″ x 9′ 2″ (181.3 x 279.4 cm)  The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Marx

© 2010 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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