Unreal Nature

July 18, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 7:40 am

View of Notre Dame, 1914. Oil on canvas

… On February 17, 1914, Marcel Sembat wrote in his journal of two paintings by Matisse of pont Notre Dame: one “very beautiful; everyone would understand and admire”; the other, “lopsided; no one would understand immediately.” The artist obviously agreed about the likely reception of these two works — the delicate painting now in the Kunstmuseum Solothurn [below] and the radical View of Notre Dame discussed here [above] — for he did not include the latter among the recent works illustrated in Les soirées de Paris that May; indeed, he did not exhibit it until 1949, when it was “regarded as an unfinished sketch to which Matisse had unaccountably signed his name.” Twenty years after that, it would be celebrated as a presciently abstract work of art.

View of Notre Dame, 1914. Oil on canvas

It is not a sketch; neither is it an abstract painting, except in the sense that Matisse suppressed detail and condensed the scene as presented in the preceding composition — or, better, compositions. For, during his first tenure at the quai Saint-Michel, his studio from 1894 to 1907, the artist had painted several views from his two windows looking north onto the Seine and would do the same between 1914 and 1917. Among earlier works that look right toward Notre Dame is a painting from 1902 [first below] that forms the compositional prototype for the pair of 1914 canvases.

A Glimpse of Notre Dame in Late Afternoon, 1902. Oil on canvas

Photograph of Notre Dame from the window of Matisse’s studio

View of Notre Dame, 1914. Monotype on chine collé

All of the above, including the illustrations, is from the book Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917 by Stephanie D’Alessandro and John Elderfield (2010).



1 Comment

  1. Hmmm. See Another point of view.

    Comment by Dr. C. — July 24, 2010 @ 10:39 pm

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