The Culturista

Matisse in the Studio: The Curator's Edit

The Culturista
Matisse in the Studio: The Curator's Edit

As the highly anticipated Matisse in the Studio exhibition opens at the Royal Academy, Curator Ann Dumas shares her five favourite works from this stellar show.

 

1. Gourds, 1915-16

"I was very pleased to be able to begin the exhibition with this exceptional loan from the Museum of Modern Art, New York. It is a powerful yet simple still life painted in 1916, a highpoint of Matisse’s career when he was interested in a rigorous analysis of form and space.  He invests all of the objects in the composition with great gravitas as he explores the relationship between them and the space that surrounds them.  Matisse described this composition as ‘a composition of objects that do not touch but nonetheless participated in the same intimacy’, a statement that can be applied more generally to the way he portrayed his objects in his art."

 

2. Qing Dynasty Calligraphy Panel

"The Chinese calligraphy panel was given to Matisse as a 60th birthday present by his wife Amélie. It was a direct inspiration for his great late cut-outs."

 

3. The Italian Woman, 1916

"This portrait is striking for austere simplicity.  We know little about the model except that she was called Lorette and Matisse painted over fifty portraits of her in a single year. We have displayed this painting with a number of the African masks from Matisse’s collection. The woman’s features are reduced to a few simplified signs revealing the lessons Matisse was learning from his African masks. He was not interested in capturing a likeness of expression in any conventional way but, rather, was seeking the ‘deep gravity’ that he felt was present in every human being."

 

4. Venetian Chair

"The so-called rocaille chair is a special piece for me.  We know that Matisse bought this is in 1942 because he wrote to his friend the writer Louis Aragon to say that he had spotted it in a shop window and was completely captivated by it.  He was obsessed by it and felt he had to own.  Matisse described it as ‘baroque’ but it is probably a 19th century Venetian chair. ‘Rocaille’ refers to a form of decorative art that uses or suggests the shapes of shells, as the seat and back of the chair do here.  Aragon called the chair a ‘gigolo’. We were very pleased to be able to assemble a group of works that show Matisse responding to the chair in different way, culminating in the bold simplification of one of his last great paintings, The Rocaille Chair, 1946."

 

5. Red Interior: Still Life on a Blue, 1947

"This is one of Matisse’s last great paintings. I love the way he both unifies and energises the whole composition with the background of vivid red and the bold zig-zagging black lines. We have presented this painting in the exhibition with some of the African Kuba cloths that he owned. Matisse was intrigued by the zig-zags and abstract patterning in these textiles and spoke of the way he contemplated them to discover their ‘hidden geometry.’"

 

Described by The Independent as "gorgeous and surprisingly revealing" Matisse in the Studio is now open at the Royal Academy until 12 November. Find out more and book tickets

 

Images Credits:

Lead Image: Spanish Still Life, 1910-1911, Henri Matisse, oil on canvas, 89.5 x 116.3cm, The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo A Castleton Simmons. This image is not included in the Royal Academy exhibition but is on permanent display at The State Hermitage Museum.

1. Gourds, 1915-16
Henri Matisse, Gourds, Issy-les-Moulineaux, 1915-16
Oil on canvas, 65.1 x 80.9 cm
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, 109.1935
Photo © Archives H. Matisse
© Succession H. Matisse/DACS 2017

2. Qing Dynasty Calligraphy Panel
Calligraphy panel, China, 19th century, Qing dynasty
Lacquered wood with gilding, 65.5 x 193 x 4 cm
Musée Matisse, Nice. Former collection of Henri Matisse. Bequest of Madame Henri Matisse, 1960, 63.2.134
Photo © François Fernandez, Nice
Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in partnership with the Musée Matisse, Nice.

3. The Italian Woman, 1916
Installation view of Matisse in the Studio at the Royal Academy of Arts © David Parry

4. Venetian Chair
Venetian chair, Germany or Italy, 19th century
Pine wood, paint, varnished silver plating, and gilding, 89 x 55 x 74 cm   Musée Matisse, Nice. Former collection of Henri Matisse. Bequest of Madame Henri Matisse, 1960, 63.2.125
Photo © François Fernandez, Nice
Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in partnership with the Musée Matisse, Nice.