Friday, February 15, 2013


This biography is a work of art worthy of the great masters testimony.French scholars were being so snobby and snotty about how they had covered the history of Matisse it took a lady they had dismissed to bring the Man and his Work to the public notice in a manner befitting his contribution to our thinking.

Some reasons we have not heard of Matisse until just the last two decades is that a major chunk of his earlier work was brought by Russian Investors prior to the Bolshevik Revolution and was lost to full public viewing until the end of the Soviet Union as it was considered to bourgeoisie for early communist apparatchik tastes.Another portion of Matisse work was acquired by  the eccentric founder of the Barnes Foundation , who only allowed pre-invited guests or private viewing by appointment only.Barnes had a pathological distaste for the art critic fraternity , meaning the works owned by Barnes did not cross into the public mainstream for many years.Another more sinister reason was a combined spin news  campaign between Picasso , who had the extreme fault of being envious of a lot of Matisse talent , however absurd that could seem to anyone , and his chief-publicist , especially within the US , Gertrude Stein.

Ironically it was Gertrudes sister Sarah Stein that was a loyal and able patron for Matisse both in Paris and the US , giving him what little exposure and awareness he did manage to attract given all the disadvantages of paucity of publicity and illness when the Art movements were to become the rock business of the ages between the Wars.

Here is author Hilary Spurling speaking on the remarkable professional working relationship between Sarah and Matisse.

To his credit Picasso did become the exemplary warden and trustee , being given the key to Matisses vault by the artist himself, of the Artists works in Paris when Henri fled to the Southern French coast.Though Picasso may have played the friendly-rival game as far as self-publicity goes , his looking after of Matisses collection during the war years was of the highest unimpeachable conduct in potentially trying times.

Among the many anecdotes are the story of how Matisse introduced vibrant colours and shapes into Picassos life , the touching story of the gift of a white dove to Picasso by Matisse which was to become famous in many manifestations as a symbol of unity and peace in Picassos work.And an odd , though highly revealing , incident when in a group , at a time when Matisse was suffering from an illness that prevented him from painting with colours he was making art with scissors.With nonchalant ease he produced such a glorious piece of work in only a minute or saw he left the work stunned into appreciative gasp- Picasso left the room without uttering  a single word.

Recently the MOMA New York staged an exhibition comparing and contrasting the evolving works of Picasso and Matisse on themes they were working on in the form of a visual "conversation".What strikes one is how the Matisse stand up to , and many would say , surpass the works of Picasso , thus helping the lost reputation of Matisse to be restored to us in the best example possible.

The best way to honour Matisse is to let his painting do the talking , here are  of my favourites.

                                    Open Window , Collioure ( see more here)

                                           Portrait of Yvonne Langsberg

Here is a very illuminating and revealing documentary which examines the influences and inspiration of Matisse and his creations.( give it 1 min to get started)

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