in the pink

When Henri Matisse painted the Pink Blouse in 1924, he was a successfully established artist living in comfort in Nice. Some twenty years earlier, at another Mediterranean seaport, he had to struggle to shape his own distinctive style. It was Picasso that suggested to Matisse that he and his family spend the summer at Collioure in 1905. It was not a place of sensational beauty, but was a long way from Paris, demanded a minimum of social contacts, had an uncontaminated local life and was dirt cheap.

The Pink Blouse. ---As Matisse wrote, "expression. . . does not consist of the passion mirrored upon a human face or betrayed by a violent gesture," but rather "the whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. . . . Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements at the painter’s disposal for the expression of his feelings." Intuitively direct painting does not simply mean squeezing paint directly from the tube onto the canvas (this was already no longer novel when Vlamink did it, with all the vehemence he could muster), but the exploitation of painterly texture as an expressive end in itself -- independently of whatever image it might catalyze (supposedly always secondary) -- in a total, so-called all-over painting. Direct painting reached a grand climax in the "oceanic" Abstract Expressionist paintings of Jackson Pollock, which are at once consummately decorative and emotionally engulfing. They climbed all the way to the painterly peak that was first consciously glimpsed in Fauvism.---Read More: image:

In 1905, little of Matisse’s innovative mastery had emerged and he seemed to be an artist whom nothing astonishing could be expected. He had no idea that nature could be essentially voluptuous, and being reared in a hideous northern countryside he could not imagine nature as a playmate and seductress. Nature came halfway to meet Matisse, but he had to see that landscape for the first time as it really is and to go on from there to re-create it with a heightened palette.

The Blue Nude. 1907.---Matisse was the most important of the Fauves because his paintings were the most aggressive. He did the most violence to observed reality -- distorted, or rather exaggerated certain aspects of its appearance -- to make his own latent violence manifest. Above all, he generated a sense of conflict, just barely resolved, at least on a technical level. ---Read More: image:

Remember in 1905, people could accept, albeit reluctantly, the reinvention of trees and nature, but the human figure, the human face, was a horror waiting to be unleashed. Something of atavistic fear was added to the element of aesthetic exasperation when faces were tampered with. This whole venture seemed outlandish and unacceptable; clearly an integral break from the orthodoxy of religious convention. Perhaps there was a secret dabbling and consorting with the jews. Too much Marcel Proust and undue influence and sympathy with the Dreyfus case. Times were changing and like Baudelaire’s eye contact in-between the angelic and the profane, and the Buberesque poetry of social imagination being peddled by Bosh like Solitary Wanderers, an artistic unity within the drama of fragmentation seemed inevitable.

---Kuspit:The collector Leo Stein, the first owner of Matisse’s 1905 Portrait of Mme Matisse, with its infamous green line splitting her face in half, called it "the nastiest smear of painting I had ever seen," noting "the unpleasantness of the putting on of the paint." This provocative, daring painting, which defies the ordinary perception of reality, is a long way from Raoul Dufy’s Street Decked with Flags, Le Havre and Derain’s London Bridge, both 1906, which are far more conventional, both in structure and color, however intense the color. Color is used to fill in pre-ordained structure, that is, an outlined existing scene. It remains familiar -- loses the estranged quality of Matisse’s portrait, generated by the de-familiarizing effect of the unexpected green line. They had not yet understood its lesson, that color should function as structure -- that a stable picture could be convincingly constructed of planes of excited, seemingly unstable color. The merger of color and structure made the portrait seem unpredictable, which had a vitalizing effect, even as it demonstrated that lyric color could have an epic effect. Read More: image:

In Matisse’s portrait of his wife, known as Green Line, the burghers and firmers could not believe that a green hat could cast a green shadow on cheeks streaked with pink and red. The colors of Collioure , from Naples yellow to bright orange and from vermilion to violet, were all there in this portrait. And Matisse got them to live together in ways which now seem to us perfectly and completely resolved in an unstable and volatile manner.


Kuspit:But where Seurat’s work was grounded in color theory, Matisse’s choice and arrangement of colors was not, which is why, already in 1905, he painted such fluid works as The Open Window, Interior at Collioure and The Roofs of Collioure. Located on the French Riviera, like St. Tropez, Collioure is also a Mediterranean world of fresh, luminous color and open space, inviting Matisse to abandon the Pointillist preoccupation with systematically applied and scientifically understood color. The Pointillist “theory of complementaries. . . is not absolute,” he declared. Instead, he relied upon “upon instinct and feeling, and on a constant analogy [of colors] with. . . sensations.” “Instinct and feeling” became the catchwords — battle cries — of Fauvism. Read More:

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