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That Shadowless Light

Post #1677 • April 10, 2014, 12:02 PM

[Image: Henri Matisse, The Snail, 1953, gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted on canvas, collection of the Tate Gallery, 2864 x 2870 mm (]

Henri Matisse, The Snail, 1953, gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted on canvas, collection of the Tate Gallery, 2864 x 2870 mm (source)

Continuing with observations made by Dame Hilary noted last week in anticipation of the Matisse cutouts show coming to the Tate, Simon Schama contemplates them in light of the late-career struggles of Picasso.

Matisse had concentrated on inventing an art that was all about the suspension of time; one that could capture momentary sensation and, through suggestive patterning (the suggestiveness requiring the active collaboration of the invited eye), indefinitely prolong that sensation, rather as if he had depressed the sustaining pedal of a piano.

This could not have been a more different conception of permanence from Picasso’s rummaging around the canon. Instead of the pantheon there was pantheism: Matisse’s belief in the perennial organic vitality of nature; in, you might say, its resurrectionary power. It was the nearest thing to formal religious conviction he had. ...

Matisse claimed that he might study whatever it was he had in mind for a cut-out for hours, days, however long it took, before he was ready with the scissors; so that the working procedure became a happy succession of meditative calculation and dynamic physical impulse. Forms of locomotion other than the pedestrian kind of which he was now physically incapable recur in the cut-outs: swimming, of course, but also flight, both of which engendered visual experiences that were, in the best sense, untethered, weightless, and in which light, space, shape, volume and mass all had to be adjusted, or rather were never finally fixed and determined. It was not just the forms that he represented accurately as in gentle, organic, kinetic motion; in that shadowless light, it was the nature of vision itself.

Hat tip Elizabeth Condon.

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