Today was declared a VQ holiday in lieu of the fact that my friend and sometimes roomie scored some tickets to the first day of the Matisse exhibit at MOMA. So the gallery remained closed this Sunday and I’m not sure what those poor socializers did with their afternoon. But I’m not about to worry because I found myself in a state close to artgasmic.
“Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–17” runs through October 11th at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibit is a stunning collection of over a hundred paintings, sculptures, and sketches done by Henri Matisse between 1913 and 1917. This is the early so-called dark period of Matisse’s career, so you can see the draw for me right there.
Of all the works two paintings stand out in my mind, two works with totally different looks. The first is “Flowers and Ceramic Plate" (p) which was painted in 1913. Almost the entire canvas is a stunning blue with a green ‘plate’ suspended above a vase of red and orange flowers. I can’t really convey the shade of blue, close to a palatinate blue, but it is so totally dazzling that it seems to fill the entire gallery with blue light. I had never seen this painting before as it is owned by the Städel Museum in Germany and I was a bit in awe of it. One of those paintings that you can not really see in a photo.
The second painting is “Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg” (p) which was painted the following year, 1914. The background of the portrait is as dark as the former was bright. I picture them in a room together with one drawing the light from the other. I am very familiar with this painting as it is owned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and I have seen it many times. What is fascinating about this painting is the series of arcs around the body, the way Matisse dug into the paint of the black background to further delineate her shoulders and arms. It’s impossible to know but the theory is he used the butt end of his brush to do this. In his book “Matisse Portraits” John Klein described Matisse’s working on this painting as an “extended period of evolution, and the intensive labor suggested by the appearance — scraped, rubbed, scumbled — of the painting itself.” I always wanted to take this one home and I still do.
I could go on and on because there is a little known Matisse story I want to pass on but that will have to wait for another day. I don’t know if the exhibit will travel elsewhere, it has already been at the Art Institute of Chicago, but it is worth seeing if it does.
Charlotte Hatherley - White