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Archive for December, 2014

MatisseGoldfish
Goldfish and Palette,oil on canvas, 57-3/4 x 44-1/4. Some sources give the date as 1914, others 1912-17.

Today is Henri Matiisse’s birthday. He was born December 31, 1868 in northern France, near the Belgian border and grew up in Bohain, where the main commerce was beets and weaving. His father owned a seed shop. When he was about fifteen, his mother gave him a paint set and he knew that he wanted to be a painter. Becoming a professional painter was out of the question since that was a disreputable occupation. He was sent to Paris to study law and worked as a law clerk for a while. He studied at the École des Beaux Arts, with Gustav Moreau, copied paintings at the Louvre to make money and lived in abject poverty with two roommates, also painters, who had one decent pair of pants between them.
He married in 1898, saying to his bride, “I love you mademoiselle, but I will always love painting more.”
Until his late thirties, his work met nothing but ridicule. When he visited his family in Bohain, the town folk called him “le sot Matisse” (the Matisse idiot). In Paris, when he exhibited his paintings at the Salon des Independents (non-juried shows) people congregated around his work in uproarious laughter. Matisse played the violin and had a reputation among friends as a ham actor, who did  satirical impressions. But about his work he was so serious that young artists called him “the Doctor.” His concentration on his work caused insomnia throughout his life. In 1903 he wrote to a friend “describing the state of misery and emotional numbness to which insomnia had reduced him, and which he feared might end in total disintegration.” (I, 250) He “approached the act of painting (with) a tension so extreme that those closest to him risked being sucked in with him to the verge of breakdown or vertigo.” (I,324)
In 1910 he had a one-man show at the Bernheim Gallery. “The critics responded with a dismissive brutality that even Matisse had scarcely encountered in this scale before. They accused him of vulgar excess, willful confusion and gratuitous barbarity. Even the more serious reviewers found him incapable of following any consistent line or evolving a style of his own. “(II, 41) The same year, the Bernheims tried to swindle him and Matisse fell ill. A doctor explained that “there was nothing clinically wrong with him, that black despair would inevitably follow bouts of such intense nervous pressure and emotional exhilaration, and that all he could do was learn to manage his condition by sticking to a regular work schedule and by being less exacting towards himself. “All artists have this particular make-up, that’s what makes them artists, but with me it’s a bit excessive,’ Matisse told his wife, adding optimistically, ‘perhaps that’s what gives their quality to my pictures.’” (II, 59)
matisse-f9d8dTowards the end of his life, Matisse was in a wheel chair and incapable of painting. He worked with scissors to make “cut-outs.” He did not buy the paper, he painted the paper he used for cutting. He worked with an assistant in placing the pieces. There was nothing restful about this work process. The current exhibit at the MoMA has people sitting in quiet contemplation of these often huge cut-outs. People generally perceive them as tranquil. The largest one is hundred and four feet long.

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About Goldfish and Palette, André Breton wrote: “I’ve examined this picture twenty times. In truth it possesses at once innovation, profound penetration of every object by the artist’s own life, magical colors, it has everything…I’m convinced Matisse has never put so much of himself into any other painting.” (II, 168)
(The quotes are from Hilary Sperling’s two-volume study of Matisse.)
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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IMG_5184
I took all these close-ups at the MoMA earlier this month. What you see is how I framed the shot as I stood in front of the Matisse painting. There was no tweaking in Photoshop. Now that I have these passages in a series, I can see my eye at work. They all have my compositional bias and look like something I might have painted, if I say so myself.
Tomorrow you’ll see the whole Matisse painting here. I invite you to copy and paste the image into your own computer and play the cropping game. Chances are, you’ll learn something about yourself.

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https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/matisse-zoom-four/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/%EF%BB%BFmatisse-zoom-three/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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IMG_5170
These passages from Matisse are a sort of gift in speechless delivery.

IMG_5183https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/28/%EF%BB%BFmatisse-zoom-three/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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IMG_5176
By now you’re probably thinking there must be more to this than looking. You’re tempted to guess what Matisse painting these passages are taken from. But no, it really is about looking.

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If you can’t let go of the guessing game, just keep looking. Stay with it and your mind will turn off the verbal mode and you’ll go visual. Ahhh!

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/matisse-zoom-two/

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/


All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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IMG_5174
The intention here in showing you these passages from a large painting is to invite you to feast your eyes.

IMG_5175

https://artamaze.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/matisse-zoom-one/
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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Matisse1a
I’m trying to find a metaphor for what happens to me when I look at a Matisse. Let’s see, in sci-fi movies you ‘re shown the space craft suddenly accelerating, exiting our solar system and zooming into galactic space.
The zooming experience comes close, but I don’t feel zoomed to another-worldly realm with Matisse. It’s more like a centripetal zoom into this, just this, without any thought of “painting” or “culture” or “what’s he saying here” or even “isn’t this wonderful.” I lose a sense of time and place. It’s just this. I fall into this moment, intensely aware and intensely stupid at the same time.

Matisse1
Here are two passages from a Matisse painting that will remain unidentified for a few days. I’ll post two passages every day til December 31st, when I’ll show the whole painting. Each passage can be imagined as a large, entrancing painting in itself.
May the Zoom be with you.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
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The lifelong and fruitful rivalry between Picasso and Matisse is already evident in 1907, when Picasso is working on Les Demoiselles D’Avignon. Matisse had exhibited Le Bonheur de vivre in 1906. It is widely bonheurdeVivreridiculed by Parisians, but Picasso sees in it a daring move forward in the game of overriding the past. The “game” is to invent a new art, an art that’s against what has gone before. And here is Matisse quoting from the Renaissance and thumbing his nose at it at the same time. For Picasso this presents a challenge: could he come up with something more shocking. He starts working on Les Demoiselles at the end of 1906 BlueNudealready. Then in the spring of 1907 Matisse comes out with another shocker: Blue Nude, Memory of Biskra. The fact that a leading art critic at the time, Bernard Berenson, calls the painting “a toad,” is encouraging, it means that bourgeois taste is being offended. That’s the program: “épater le bourgeois” (to shock the conventionally-minded middle class).
LesDemoiselleDAvignonIn the fall of 1907 Picasso finishes Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and has some friends and collectors over. “Those invited to a viewing found it as baffling as the stuff Matisse was currently producing. Picasso’s three closest friends—the writers Guillaume Apollinaire, Max Jacob and André Salmon—were noncommittal. Kahnweiler considered the painting a failure, and Leo Stein burst out laughing when he saw it.” (Hilary Spurling, The Unknown Matisse, p379)
Picasso kept it in his studio until it was exhibited for the first time in 1916 at the Salon d’Antin, Paris, when André Salmon gave it the title by which it is known. The title comes from Picasso’s private joking with friends about a notorious brothel on Avignon Street in Barcelona. Picasso later said he disliked the title.
Jacques Doucet (1853–1929), a wealthy Parisian fashion designer purchased the painting in transactions lasting from 1924-1929.
Jacques Seligmann & Co., New York, purchased it from Madame Doucet in September 1937.
The Museum of Modern Art, New York purchased it from Seligmann, 1937- 1939, where it has been drawing crowds ever since.
Les Demoiselles d’Avignon is considered to be an icon of modernism. “Icon” is a strange word to be used in talking about modernism. More on that later.
All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.
http://facefame.wordpress.com
http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com
http://www.katherinehilden.com
http://www.khilden.com

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