Henri Matisse, Interior with Egyptian Curtain, 1948, oil on canvas, 45 3/4 x 35 1/8 inches (The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.)
Thomas Micchelli blogs about Matisse's 1948 painting Interior with Egyptian Curtain (Phillips Collection) currently on view in the exhibition Matisse: In Search of True Painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, on view through March 17, 2013.
Micchelli writes: "Matisse has painted not one picture but three abutted together: the window, the curtain and the still life. While each competes for your attention in its own dazzling way — the window in an explosion of short strokes, the curtain with an interlocking pattern of abstracted shapes, and the still life with a simple but blazing interaction of yellow, pink, black and white — to the postmodern eye the combination of components seem to betray a loss of faith in the ability of a single image to express the fullness of an artist’s vision." Micchelli continues, noting that "the jangling, jazzy profusion of images deny the painting a conventional center of interest. The images, however, do not direct the eye to all four quadrants of the canvas, as Matisse does in his other interiors; instead they compact a heightened level of interest in three discreet sections. To again take the work from a postmodern perspective, Matisse’s “Interior with an Egyptian Curtain” can be viewed as more overt in its deconstruction of pictorial integrity than something like Willem de Kooning’s black-and-white 'Painting,' which was done the same year."
Robin Greenwood considers "an important and relevant question to ask (time and again) about abstract art: what does distinguish it from design?" He continues: "Matisse's late work does contribute quite prominently, if not iconically, to a certain strand in the conjunction of modernism and abstraction which blurs the distinction between art and design, and more specifically between abstract painting and the decorative and applied arts... I’ve always considered Matisse’s greatest contribution to art not his colour, which is undoubtedly exceptional, but his inventive painterly architectures reasserting what [painting] does (what, in a way, it has always done), what it delivers, by the act of continual reinvention; finding yet more new ways to keep it alive – and of course, keep it keenly separate from design and the applied arts even when in the act of using elements of those very disciplines to elaborate and enrich the spatial structures of his painting."
Deborah Barlow blogs about the "effort filled effortlessness of Matisse." She adds her thoughts to Sebastian Smee's recent profile of Matisse's Petit Interieur a la table de Marbre Ronde at the Worcester Art Museum.
Barlow writes that Matisse's painting "confronts the mystery that is at the core of [his] oeuvre. His signatory effortlessness was anything but effortless. That ease and flow was hard won." She concludes "...art making can be the way we possess the qualities we don't embody easily, to evoke moods, auras and existences that are vastly different from the ones we inhabit."
Smith writes that Matisse "communed with artists of the distant or not-so-distant past, from Giotto to Cézanne, and periodically brushed shoulders with Cubism and the work of his chief rival, Picasso. But his main desire was, as he put it, to 'push further and deeper into true painting.' This project was in every sense an excavation, and he achieved it partly by digging into his own work, revisiting certain scenes and subjects again and again and at times also making superficially similar if drastically divergent copies of his paintings. His rigorous yet unfettered evolution is the subject of [the exhibition], one of the most thrillingly instructive exhibitions about this painter, or painting in general, that you may ever see."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.