Monday, May 22, 2017

Those Paintings --- Day 6/93

Walk: Presidio, Golf Club Practice Tee
Distance: 3 miles, hit bucket of balls, home yoga

Whew, it is almost over.  The Matisse Diebenkorn show at SFMOMA.  Ciwt is relieved because she can stop looking at her feet when anyone exclaims "I LOVED the Matisse Diebenkorn!! Tell me it isn't the best show you've seen - EVER!"

They are not looking for a real answer.  If Ciwt actually gave one, it would be something along the lines of "Well, no."

Those who, like Ciwt, love and have spent time studying Henri Matisse and his art, probably reacted like she did when she walked into the exhibition. Their hearts sank.  "Oh, those paintings." Meaning Matisse's paintings from the years 1913-1917.

The show's curators scoured the world to cull those particular paintings, and rightly so from the point of view of clearly demonstrating their effect on Diebenkorn's art. 
                                                                                                          Matisse, 1914      Diebenkorn, 1975

But those paintings are an anomaly for Matisse who is known for exurberant color, dancing lines, arabesque swirls, love of fabric and sensual ease -  and capturing JOY.  His art makes people happy in a way that no one can quite explain. Except the art he produced during the years 1913-1917.  Those were truly dark years personally and professionally for Matisse. And for that four-year experimental moment in his long and important career his art too was dark, chalky, linear, abstract, drab. There are definite internal and external reasons for this, but these are not aluded to, much less explained, by the Matisse Diebenkorn curators.

First let's let the visuals speak.  Paintings of open windows in the south of France for instance.

Here is one painted in 1908 (his explosively colorful Fauve period):

    Henri Matisse, Open Window Collioure, 1904, o/c

Now we see the exact same window and vantage point started but not finished in 1914. Even though never shown in his lifetime or even signed, it hangs in a prominent place in the Matisse Diebenkorn exhibition:

     Henri Matisse, French Window at Collioure, 1914, oil/canvas

And here is one of his windows in 1918 again in the south of France painted when his artistic questions were resolving and he began to move out of those years:

     Henri Matisse, Interior at Nice, 1918, o/c

One could find similar movement - from exuberant light to dark, then back to pleasing color - in other subject matter such as studio interiors, foliage, musical instruments and his renowned goldfish.

Famously and happily, here they are in gold water in 1912:

     Henri Matisse, Goldfish, 1912, o/c

Now abstracted and in chalky white water in the Matisse Diebenkorn featured years:

     Henri Matisse, Goldfish and Palette, 1914-15, o/c

And (one could say) in the marvelous cutouts shortly before his death:

Henri Matisse, The Swimming Pool, 1952, burlap/white paper/blue painted paper

                                Matisse's Dining Room at the Hotel Regina, Nice

So what really was going on for Matisse during those years 1913-1918?  Stay tuned, please....

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