Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Matisse: Drawing Life

On Saturday I spoke at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), in Brisbane. The topic was Matisse, to complement GoMA's brilliant 'Matisse: Drawing Life' exhibition. (See it. Do it now.)

Because of copyright restrictions, the webcast wasn't archived. But you can read a little of my talk below:
Robert Hughes once referred to Matisse’s ‘The Dance’ as one of the few wholly convincing modern depictions of divine frenzy, and Hughes is characteristically spot on. But for the master, there was no intoxicated abandon. Matisse’s portrayals of possession were always achieved with gritted teeth, clenched fist.
Put less melodramatically, Matisse evoked ecstasy or sensual repose, but he did so with discipline, ferocity and a certain ruthlessness. Yes, he said he wanted his artworks to be like an armchair after a hard day’s work. But Matisse was not a Jason recliner kind of man. He was intense, obsessive, passionate. He once said that he felt like strangling someone just before working. He had within him some font of violence, which often took him from his wife, children and grandchildren, or had them tip-toeing around him. This was the savagery genteel Victorians saw in his early work, when he was allied with the Fauves. But this fury and lust were bridled with a bourgeois discipline – a physical and psychological strength that kept him working almost every day of his long life. This is what directed his intense, immense drives, and kept him creating and destroying, draft after draft. To make works of decadent carnality and overflowing joy of life, Matisse was ascetic.
(Image: Henri Matisse, 'Patitcha smiling', 1947, courtesy QAG)

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