Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yesterday Tyler countered Peter Plagens' suggestion in Newsweek that Les Demoiselles D'Avignon is the most influential work of art of the last century with his own choice: Matisse's Blue Nude.

I'll go along with that. I think Plagens makes a good argument, but in so doing, he also presents the typical charicature of Matisse as the comfortable bourgeois confectioner, wearing nice suits and making decorative, precious paintings while scantily clad women lounge around him. In the first line of the Newsweek piece, he states that when Matisse first saw Les Demoiselles, he was "shocked at how raw, cacophonic and nasty it looked."

It's easy to forget that Matisse went through some strange and hungry years himself. 1907 was one of them, and Tyler rightly points out that Picasso saw Blue Nude first, and that it in many ways prompted Les Demoiselles.

Part of the problem of Matisse's influence has been PR: The wrong people bought his stuff. His wonderful Moroccan paintings were spirited away to Moscow; the wrong Steins--Sarah and Michael, not Gertrude and Leo--bought some of his boldest early pieces.
The Matisse Picasso show at the MoMA back in 2003 helped clarify the relationship between the two artists, presenting it as something akin to a collaboration--albeit not always a friendly one.

As for the most influential Matisse, a number of folks have argued for The Red Studio because of the obvious impact it had on American abstraction when it came to New York in 1939.

Matisse or Picasso: Painters tend to gravitate toward one pole or the other. If you like Picasso, you probably experience and represent light through chiaroscuro, mostly; if you like Matisse, lyrical color trumps value contrast.

I've always been a Matisse fan first, and I'm pretty sure Tyler is, too--which explains why we both like Richard Diebenkorn so much. Hard to imagine what Diebenkorn's work would look like without the precedent of, say, Zorah on the Terrace.


Blogger Unknown said...

RD is god.

On Matisse and that false charge of him being a comfy painter:

9:56 AM  
Blogger M.W. Nolden said...

Nice Post, thanks. I'd never made the Diebenkorn/Matisse connection before ~ so obvious.
There is also nothing "comfy" about "The Window", The Piano Lesson" or for that matter "Bathers by a Stream". (Which is most likely Matisse's answer to Picasso.)

8:09 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Matisse didn't finish Bathers by a River until 1916, as WWI was winding down. (The painting has only left Chicago twice in the last 55 years, which is part of why it's underrated/under-considered.)

Nine years is a long time for a response. Matisse's Bathers with a Turtle (in StL), however, was painting right after he saw Les Dems.

9:16 AM  

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