Admittedly it’s been a few weeks since I saw the show Matisse: In Search of True Painting at The Met. It’s been on my mind since I saw it and I definitely want to go back before it closes in March. I thought it was well put together, especially in the way you were able to see into the thought progressions between his paintings (that was the point, I know). I loved seeing how one painting was zoomed in from the first and another had a slightly different focal point from the one before. It showed how intent he was on searching for the different ways to convey what he saw. I wondered how he concluded that a painting was finished – probably one of the hardest things to know as an artist. It’s something I often struggle with, and I can’t help but think of this piece wisdom I got from my aunt about relationships that I think relates to paintings as well: the hardest part about relationships is knowing when to get out of them. When is a painting finished? How do you know when to put down the brush? When is it better to start a fresh canvas rather than play out the problem on the first? These are questions I imagine most artists ask themselves, as we’ve all heard the “it’s been overworked” critique (or is that just me?). As it says in the press release: “For Matisse, the process of creation was not simply a means to an end but a dimension of his art that was as important as the finished canvas.” Matisse decided in the 1930s to let the viewer have a glimpse of that painstaking process by having photographs taken at different stages of the work.

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Left: Henri Matisse (1869–1954), The Dream, 1940, Oil on canvas; 31 7/8 x 25 9/16 in.
Private collection © 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Right: Reprint of archival photograph documenting Henri Matisse’s process of painting The Dream, 1940; January 7, 1940. Reprint of archival photograph; 23 1/4 x 18 5/8 in.
© 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Left:Henri Matisse (1869–1954). The Large Blue Dress, 1937. Oil on canvas; 36 1/2 x 29 in.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. John Wintersteen, 1956
© 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Right: Photograph documenting Henri Matisse’s process of painting The Large Blue Dress, 1937. February 26, 1937. Photograph; 5 3/4 x 4 1/2 in.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Henry McIlhenny Papers
© 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

This was my favorite part of the show (gallery seven), not because the paintings were necessarily my favorite, but  because I loved the process. You had to play the guessing game of why he moved the bowl from the bottom to the side, and then conclude whether the final version really was the best version. Each painting was surrounded by several photographs, so it wasn’t just a preliminary sketch with the final product. Matisse fully intended for the public to be aware of these photographs as this gallery was a re-creation of an exhibit he did in 1945 at Galerie Maeght. What struck me the most was how well these paintings worked in black and white. He had reds and blues and oranges all next to each other, yet their tones translated perfectly to b/w. This told me so much about how great he was at color, not that I had any doubts. His colors not only work together, but they are from different tonal families that work in harmony as well. It had been a long time since I had thought about seeing my work through a black and white lens, so this inspired me to go home and snap some cell phone pics (it’s so easy now with apps that have b/w filters). Needless to say, my tones need some work!

I almost forgot! After seeing the show, my friend and I splurged for High Tea. It was fabulous, as you can see in my Instagram pic!

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