For years I have considered myself a Matisse-ophile, a mega-fan, an acolyte. So I’m a little surprised at myself that it took so long for me to get to the big Matisse show In Search of True Painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Once there I was surprised again to find that there were plenty of Matisses that I didn’t like. Apostasy!
The show is cleverly organized by Rebecca Rabinow, Curator in the Museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, to show the viewer not just the amazing paintings, but the art-making struggle that Matisse undertook to make his masterpieces. Two of the great revelations of the show (at least to me) are Matisse’s creation of multiple versions of the same painting at the same time, and his use of photography to evaluate the progress of the paintings he was making.
This is where I would like to make a cogent case for MY working process as similar to Matisse’s, with (of course) similar results. But I can’t be so ridiculous. The only comparison I’m comfortable making is that we both occasionally use photography, and I’m pretty sure my camera is better.
It is my personal preference that favors his still-lives and his interiors over his figure paintings, which seem to fall somewhere between Van Gogh and Picasso, but without the vibrancy that Matisse would achieve later with his cut-outs. Plenty of people prefer the figures to the apples, but they are wrong (again I am kidding).
The show runs through March 17th, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. It takes up eight galleries on the ground floor of the museum. Turn left when you enter the great hall, stop and pay, then walk forward through ancient sculptures and turn right when you dead-end. I only give you directions because I think the Met moves walls in the dead of night just to confuse me on my next visit. And you might want to drop bread crumbs so that you can find your way out later. Just a suggestion.
The museum website on the exhibition is http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/matisse/introduction, and Roberta Smith’s exuberant review can be read at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/arts/design/matisse-exhibition-at-the-metropolitan-museum-of-art.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.