Matisse: Biographical and Critical Study

Matisse: Biographical and Critical Study

Matisse: Biographical and Critical Study

Matisse: Biographical and Critical Study

Excerpt

Of all modern artists there is none regarding whom we have a documentation so abundant and authentic as is the case with Matisse. For in every period, at every stage of his career, he made a point of stating his exact intentions, whether in written articles or by word of mouth, choosing his words with an eye to clarity and precision. He said what to his thinking needed saying, and confined himself to essentials, but averse though he was from any sort of self-advertisement, he was always ready to reply at length to questions put him, doing his utmost to recall half-forgotten facts, to provide materials for an accurate chronology of his œuvre, and to further to the best of his ability the discovery of the truth and the whole truth about himself.

This willing co-operation facilitated research not only into the guiding principles of his art but also into the facts of his creative life, for Matisse was one of those rare, clear-sighted painters who do not shrink from scrutinizing in the dry light of reason their impulses, the sources of their inspiration, and setting forth what they find with total objectivity. Artists often profess an ignorance of the paths they followed in their initial quest of total self-expression; they would have us believe that they know nothing of what took place within them and leave this to their commentators to discover. This was not Matisse's way; he never ceased probing the mystery of the creative process and applied an intelligence far above the average to discovering the origins of his art, to analysing his means and to defining his aims. The effect of a commanding personality that he produced on visitors, as in earlier days on his fellow students, and then on his avant-garde colleagues, who were quick to recognize his superior intelligence and tenacity of purpose -- this effect was fully justified, and his prestige accepted without . . .

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