Matisse was originally hired to design the stained glass windows, but eventually went on to design the chapel (working with the architect Auguste Perret) and its contents, including the Stations of the Cross, the alter linens, the priests’ vestments and the furniture.
Matisse said the chapel was “….the culmination of a life of work.” He goes on to say, “Colours and lines are forces, and the secret of creation lies in the interaction of these forces and their balance.”
I think The Art Caravan will be planning a trip to Vence. The show at MoMA brought me to tears. I felt surrounded by joy, passion, and love for art and life. To see Matisse’s work in a permanent installation, The Chapel of the Rosary, must be a very affirming experience.
If a trip to France isn’t in your immediate future, how about a trip to New York? MoMA is offering Midnight with Matisse on December 31, to celebrate Matisse’s birthday, and the new year. (Who needs the craziness of Times Square anyway?!)
The impetus for Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outsat MoMA was the restoration of The Swimming Pool, (1952) Matisse’s only site specific cut out installation. MoMA acquired the work in 1975, and it hasn’t been on display in more than twenty years.
The story behind The Swimming Pool goes something like this……One summer day in 1952, Matisse decided he wanted to go down to the local swimming pool to watch the divers. Not surprisingly, it being the south of France, he found it too warm, and returned to his home, intent on creating his own swimming pool. The dining room was chosen, and Matisse and his assistants went to work, making history.
The restoration of the work began in 2008. It was an extensive project to return the paper colour to its original balance, and remove and replace the deteriorated burlap on which the paper cuts had been mounted. At times, the burlap was removed strand by strand. The result of all the time, money and care expended is a stunning reclamation of a charming work of art.
Matisse: The Cut-Outs recreates The Swimming Pool in all its dining room-sized glory.
A decade or two ago, I saw a show of Matisse cut outs in Washington, D.C. The power of those pieces has stayed with me all these years. More recently, a favourite art professor often praises Matisse, claiming he is the foremost artist of the 20th century.
MoMa collaborated with the Tate Modern to produce this extensive show. The work is displayed chronologically, which helps understand the development of paper cutting in Matisse’s art practise.
As I understand it, the paper cuts weren’t originally intended to be the finished pieces of art. Matisse used cut out pieces of paper to plan designs (just like the aforementioned art professor advises his students.) After the printing of his book, Jazz, he was disappointed with the result.
He wrote to the publisher, Teriade, “The artist who made the picture comes away with the impression that is picture has been destroyed, and he loses every hope of it being understood by means of this approximate reproduction.”
Despite Matisse’s reservations, Teriade persisted, and eventually, Jazz was published, to great success.
And, thankfully, Matisse persisted with the cut outs. In a letter to Pierre Bonnard, he wrote, “Instead of drawing and then applying colour, I draw direct with the colour.”