When we were in London last time Rupert, Leo and I went to see the Matisse at the Tate Modern. It was fabulous, if a tad crowded. One upside to living in Abu Dhabi is that wherever you go, you are practically alone. Leo and I wandered through listening to the “instructions” as he called them and I am now a convert to those things. They really do bring an exhibition to life.
This morning I received two takes on the Matisse; one rather improbably from Top Shop, in its email newsletter. The other from my good friend Simon Fletcher, an established artist in his own right. Top Shop focuses on the colours and vibrancy of the exhibition, it’s nicely put together and even links his cut-outs to crop-tops in case its readers are waning. Below are Simon’s thoughts:
Matisse papiers decoupé at the Tate modern, London until 7th September 2014
“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue”
I didn’t know why it was called ‘l’Escargot’ when I first saw it as a boy but I loved the colours and dynamic; I envied ‘La Danse’ and marvelled at the simplicity of the idea of three arches with figures moving through them.
Henri Matisse 1869 – 1954 has always been an inspiration for me since my teenage years. He defies categorisation and enjoys a unique position in 20th century art somewhere between abstraction and figuration.
Seeing his colour develop from his first Fauve period, the portrait of his wife (portrait with green stripe 1905) and the early landscapes, the Moroccan paintings and interiors of his middle years to the last paintings before his illness in 1941, the pink nudes, the great still lifes, is to map a joyful journey. There are no political statements in his art, no social significance, just exciting, stimulating use of colour and forms.
Illness marked at least two important milestones in his life the first being when, recovering from appendicitis in hospital, he was given a box of colours. The effect of his first attempts to paint inspired him to quit his job as a lawyer’s clerk and enrol at art school where he met and became friends with painters who would eventually form a loose movement which became known as the Fauves. On seeing their work exhibited a critic had written that it was like seeing wild beasts (fauves) together and the name stuck. The second milestone came when he was recovering from surgery for intestinal cancer and, unable to stand for long he turned to coloured papers and scissors to create his famous late works, the papiers decoupé.
Illness turns us inward, the forced inactivity allowing lengthy reflection about our past and possible future and there is no question when looking at the work of this last period of his life that Matisse had come to it at the perfect time to complete his oeuvre.
In these works we can see a consummate artist at work using all the various and complex skills acquired over many years of creativity: knowledge of the human form, of plants and animals and of course that last and most difficult thing, a mastery of colour. Few painters I think have had such an ability to create harmonious compositions using a powerful palette of rich colours. The success of these works and their enormous popularity is largely due I believe to the careful placing of evocative shapes which suggest plants, animals, flowers, figures etc. but which never impinge to the extent that our imagination is trapped by them – he leaves us free to make associations in our own way from the sublime choice of colours from deep magenta, through ultramarine to gold ochre and black.
Simon Fletcher 2014