Thursday, June 11, 2015

Crisis of Creation --- Day 4/133

Walk: Fillmore 
Distance: 2 miles and small yoga

Andre Derain, Portrait of Matisse, 1905, ca 36 x 21in, o/c

Of the three portraits Derain painted of Matisse 'that' summer when the two artists opened the floodgates of Fauvism the least known (or regarded) one above comes closest to capturing the nearly diabolical turmoil Matisse was enduring.  Almost immediately after - significantly - coming alone through the difficult mountain pass into Collioure and being bombarded for the first time with that light saturated stretch of the Barbary Coast where France is the closest to Africa, Matisse started to paint in intense emotional color according to his feelings.  And as his exterior world expanded, exploded really, his interior world nearly collapsed.  As his paint brush took on the unstoppable power of dynamite sticks in his hands, the painter, so prudent and orderly people called him "The Doctor," imploded into vertigo, insomnia, desperation and panic.

Why?  Hilary Spurling, supreme biographer of Matisse,  comes closest to explaining the chaos of true creation: It is not easy to understand today how paintings of light, colour, mediated through scenes of simple seaside domesticity...could have seemed at the time, both to their perpetrator and to his public, an assault that threatened to undermine civilization as they knew it.  ..Matisse was not simply discarding perspective, abolishing shadows, repudiating the academic distinction between line and colour.  He was attempting to overturn a way of seeing evolved and accepted by the Western world for centuries, going back to painters like Michelangelo and Leonardo and before them to the Greek and Roman masters of antiquity. (italics Ciwt's)

How unrelentingly terrifying!  And rightly so:  within months of the summer of 1905, as a consequence of the Salon d'Automne where his Woman with a Hat was the scourge of the show, he was burned in effigy in Chicago.  This as just a single example of the vicious, censorious outrage of the public.

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