Best known for his later work as a sculptor, William Zorach spent two years studying painting in Paris, returning to New York in 1912. He wrote that his depictions of NYC’s most famous park in Spring in Central Park (1914) were “painted at home from the imagination . . . in all wild colors, peopled with exotic nudes,“ but the bold hues in undulating outlines recall the work of the Fauves, notably Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, whose canvases he had seen in Paris. With his wife, Marguerite, an avant-garde painter herself, Zorach associated with many of America’s earliest Modernists in New York in the late 1910s, including Max Weber, Marsden Hartley, and John Maren. In 1913 both Zorachs exhibited at the prestigious international exhibition of modern art,known as the Armory Show.
Photographed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
By the 1970s, Roy Lichtenstein’s comic-strip style of painting had become his trademark. While he had adapted his early compositions from actual comic books, here Lichtenstein referred to an art historical rather than a pop culture source: Henri Matisse’s Red Studio (1911, in the collection of MoMA), which features Matisse’s canvases casually set around a room. Into the flattened studio space of Artists Studio Foot Medication (1974), Lichtenstein similarly inserted whole of partial versions of his own real and imagined artworks across a range of subject matter, including geometric abstraction. This painting’s title calls out the 1962 print Foot Medication, reimagined as a monumental painting at the upper left. This kind of self-quotation, at once playful and thoughtful, would become anther feature of Lichtenstein’s production.
After 1952, dripping and pouring paint were no longer the primary means of expression for Jackson Pollack.The totemic forms at the left and right in Easter and The Totem (1953) reflect his renewed interest in using a brush to paint quasi-figurative images. The bright colors and expansive spaces anchored by large swaths of black suggest the influence of Henri Matisse, who was the subject of a large retrospective that Pollack would have seen at MoMA the previous year. The push and pull between abstraction and figuration is a thread that weaves through Pollack’s entire career. As he said in the last year of his life, “I am very representational some of the time and a little al of the time.”
When The Blue Window (1913) was first reproduced in the May 1914 edition of the journal, Les Soirees de Paris, it was titled La Glace Sans Tain, or “The Mirror Without Silvering,” referring to a device known as a Claude Mirror: the dark, red-framed square in the picture. Many artists used one of these slightly convex. dark-tinted mirrors to clarify their compositions; a scene reflected in it is less colorful than life, its compositional elements accentuated. Something close to that effect is visible here in the structured vertical and horizontal bands and the cool blue palette that Matisse painted over other layers of color, some of which are still visible. As he simplified forms, he reinforced them with incising and scraping, seen here, for example, in the cloud at the top left.
In this cityscape, Andre Derain (1880 – 1954) rendered the London sky with dramatic color. In the summer of 1905, he developed the bright palette of Charring Cross Bridge while painting alongside his elder peer, Henri Matisse in Coullioure, France. There, the two artists produced their most radical paintings to date — paintings purged of shadows and filled with imaginative, unbridled colors. When several of these works were exhibited in Paris that fall, the public and critics found the palette to be startling, and ridiculed their efforts. As Derain later recalled, “It was the era of photography. This may have influenced us, and played a part in our reaction against anything resembling a snapshot of life. Colors became charges of dynamite.”
I’ll admit that I was feeling rather nonchalant about seeing the Henri Matisse exhibit at MOMA and believed it would not be big deal if I missed it. But, man, am I glad that Geoffrey and I happened to see it this past weekend, because it is a phenomenal show that has totally changed my mind about Matisse, an artist whose work I never took that much interest in. Great art can do that to you.
This was one of no those “No Photography Allowed” exhibits, so I will apologize in advance for getting heads in some shots and occasional lack of focus or composition that is indicative of the “Spy Pic.”
Here’s a bit of background on the exhibit from Moma Dot Org:
In the late 1940s, Henri Matisse turned almost exclusively to cut paper as his primary medium, and scissors as his chief implement, introducing a radically new operation that came to be called a cut-out. Matisse would cut painted sheets into forms of varying shapes and sizes—from the vegetal to the abstract—which he then arranged into lively compositions, striking for their play with color and contrast, their exploitation of decorative strategies, and their economy of means.
Initially, these compositions were of modest size but, over time, their scale grew along with Matisse’s ambitions for them, expanding into mural or room-size works. A brilliant final chapter in Matisse’s long career, the cut-outs reflect both a renewed commitment to form and color and an inventiveness directed to the status of the work of art, whether as a unique object, environment, ornament, or a hybrid of all of these.
Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is a groundbreaking reassessment of this important body of work. The largest and most extensive presentation of the cut-outs ever mounted, the exhibition includes approximately 100 cut-outs — borrowed from public and private collections around the globe — along with a selection of related drawings, prints, illustrated books, stained glass, and textiles. The last time New York audiences were treated to an in-depth look at the cut-outs was in 1961.
This exhibition was sparked by an initiative to conserve The Museum of Modern Art’s monumental cut-out The Swimming Pool (1952), a favorite of visitors since its acquisition by MoMA in 1975. The Swimming Pool is the only cut-out composed for a specific room — the artist’s dining room in his apartment in Nice, France. The goals of the multiyear conservation effort have been to bring this magical environment back to its original color balance, height, and spatial configuration. Newly conserved, The Swimming Pool — off view for more than 20 years — returns to MoMA’s galleries as a centerpiece of the exhibition. Unfortunately, I could not get a photo of The Swimming Pool room but, trust me, it is amazing.
Here are a few more photos I was able to snap of this must-see show!
Henri Matisse The Cut Outs will be on Exhibit only until February 10th, 2015 at The Museum of Modern Art, Located at East 53rd Street, NYC. As part of its Special Extended Hours for this Exhibit, the Museum will be open continuously for the show’s final weekend, from February 6th at 10:30 AM to February 8th at 5:30 PM. Timed tickets are required for Non-members. Members get in free and skip the line. Find out more at This Link.
Matisse painted this oil sketch in the summer of 1904, while working alongside fellow artist Paul Signac on the French Riviera, and he completed the final painting (now at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris) the following winter.
Both Signac and Matisse were influenced by the elder painter Paul Cézanne, whose discrete strokes of color emphasized the materiality of the painted surface over naturalistic illusion. But Matisse went further, using a palette of pure, high-pitched colors (blue, green, yellow, and orange) to render the landscape, and outlining the figures in blue. The painting takes its title from a line by the nineteenth-century poet Charles Baudelaire and shares the poems subject of an escape to an imaginary, tranquil refuge.
Study for Luxe, Calme et Volupté (Luxury, Calm and Pleasure) is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.