Matisse In The Studio: Inside The Royal Academy’s New Show
When you think of artist Henri Matisse, you probably picture his bright and expressive oil works, or perhaps his much later but equally well-renowned cut-out series. We do at least. If you’re hoping to be re-acquainted with all of these old classics, then you might find yourself momentarily disappointed – that is, until you see the trove of studio relics gathered over the years, many of which you will likely recognise from his most famous works, that make up this new show. Because this is, after all, Matisse in the Studio – the first exhibition to consider how the personal collection of Matisse’ treasured objects were both the subject matter, and inspiration, for his work.
For Matisse, this assimilation of diverse material culture, which included everything from Chinese porcelain to North African textiles, was an ever yielding pool of inspiration from which he continuously drew. In 1951 he said, “I have worked all my life before the same objects… The object is an actor. A good actor can have a part in ten different plays; an object can play a role in ten different pictures”. His beloved chocolate pot for instance, played a leading role in several of his most famed works, including Safrano Roses at the Window, and fifteen years later in Still Life with Shell.
The show is a brilliant insight into how Matisse’s style was informed by those objects he lovingly collected – many of his portraits, we learn, rarely resorted to physical likeness, but instead borrowed traditions from the many African masks he assimilated that simplified facial features, as seen in The Italian Woman. Elsewhere, the show examines how his sculptural depictions of the human figure were also influenced by sculptures from his personal collection, from Thailand to Mali to a chiselled Roman torso, the influence they had on his style is clear – Ten highly recommends.
Matisse in the Studio is on at the Royal Academy from the 5th August to 12th November 2017