New York – “Matisse: In Search of True Painting” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through March 17th, 2013

March 17th, 2013


Matisse: In Search of True Painting, (Installation View),via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City opened the exhibition “Matisse: In Search of True Painting” on December 4th 2012. Dedicated to Henri Matisse’s painting process, and highlighting his tendency to “repeat compositions in order to compare effects,” the exhibition includes forty-nine works, emphasizing the artist’s lifelong work with pairs, trios, and series, and exploring his artistic exercise of variance to discover the true essence of an image.

Henri Matisse, Goldfish and Palette (1914), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Henri Matisse, Goldfish and Palette (1914), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Born in 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse was a French painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor, most known for his use of vibrant color and of pointillism to pioneer new techniques in the rendering of the image, and for his ongoing exploration of depiction on canvas.  While he was later regarded to have upheld the classical tradition in French painting, he was originally labeled a Fauve for his open challenging of traditional aspects of painterly composition in favor of more expressive, abstract approaches to the subject. He is widely considered a leading figure in modern art, as well as a motivational force in the development of the plastic arts, along with Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp during the beginning of the 20th century.


Matisse: In Search of True Painting, (Installation View),via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Although he is one of the most celebrated artists of the first half of the 20th century, Matisse’s painting was always a struggle against perfection. Throughout his life he was known to constantly question, repaint, and reevaluate what others might consider complete, and his process was just as much a part of his art as the finished product.

Henri Matisse, Interior with Goldfish (1914), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Henri Matisse, Interior with Goldfish (1914), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Matisse’s self-proclaimed goal was to “push further and deeper into true painting” – as art critic Clemend Greenberg wrote in 1949.  Matisse could “no more help painting well than breathing.”  Accordingly, this new examination of Matisse’s work seeks to reevaluate the artist’s dedicated and in-depth practice in the terms of today’s art history, repositioning his works as a conjoined series of studied variations and abstractions on his form and process as opposed to (or perhaps in conflation with) singular, transcendent acts of artistic genius afforded his work by traditional historians.

Henri Matisse, Still Life with Purro II (1904–5), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Henri Matisse, Still Life with Purro II (1904–5), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

At the end of his life, Matisse’s use of color intensified, a reaction against his failing eyesight (caused by the harsh light of southern France), used overstating hues and intense blacks. He spent the majority of his life convalescing from a variety of intestinal illnesses and operations, and he reacted to the incapacitation with a unique intensity of experimentation, juxtaposed with an almost violent perfectionism – working, as he once described “toward what I feel; toward a kind of ecstasy.”  Seeking to capture this intense drive to realize the depths of his practice, the Met has created an intriguing and dynamic look into artistic practice as a whole.


Matisse: In Search of True Painting, (Installation View),via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Matisse: In Search of True Painting” will remain on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York through March 17, 2013.


Matisse: In Search of True Painting, (Installation View),via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Henri Matisse, Nasturtiums with the Painting "Dance" I (1912), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Henri Matisse, Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance” I (1912), via The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Matisse: In Search of True Painting, (Installation View),via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Henri Matisse, Still Life with Compote and Fruit, (1899) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Henri Matisse, Still Life with Compote and Fruit, (1899) via The Metropolitan Museum of Art

—E. Baker

Related Links:
Exhibition Page [The Metropolitan Museum of Art]
NY Times [“Henri Matisse: Evolving Towards Ecstasy“]