the shock of the newland shop of pleasure part 2

the shock of the newland shop of pleasure part 2


the master of reflection within pleasure
was already Matisse he was born in 1869 and he died in 1954 and nowhere in the
span of his work do you feel a trace of the alienation and conflict
– which modernism consigned us his studio was a place of equilibrium that
produced images of refuge for 60 continuous years in nineteen for Matisse
got interested in Sahaj technique of pointillism the colored dots that were
being used by his followers among them Matisse’s friend the painter seen yak
seen yak had a house would scent prepare and Matisse went there in the summer of
1904 the result was one of those awkward demonstration pieces of Modern Art where
Matisse’s literary instincts merged with these fantasies about Arcadia a picnic
by the sea at San Tropez with the Latino vote and a pine tree and a cluster of
spotty bovis nudes and a thoroughly Baudelaire II entitle luxury calm and
pleasure it was Matisse’s first image of the
mediterranean as a state of mind a clumsy painting but a portent in
nineteen five Matisse went with Andre Duran to paint in the little coastal
village of Collier near the Spanish border this was one of the crucial
moments in the short history of Fauvism because at Collier both men painted
their most radical pictures so far this was the point at which Matisse’s color
broke free thick blobs of paint one moment Bayer canvas the next and the
harsh glitter of local color to mimic the dazzle of afternoon light on the
water the new Matisse’s were very shocking indeed their defenders were
uncertain about them and their detractors thought them barbaric particularly offensive was Matisse’s use
of this new color system discordant and ragged in the familiar matrix of the
salon portraits even though the victim was his wife time and again Matisse set down an image
of a pre civilized world Eden before the fall Gogol’s dream inhabited by men and
women without a history languages plants or energetic as animals the primitive
look of these two huge paintings that dance and music still throws you Matisse
presents his image of music at its origins enacted by half a dozen naked
cavemen prehistorical pre-social almost indefinitely pre technological a reed
flute or to the slap of hand on skin and yet how powerful that editing down is
the simplest elements earth sky body each a lot of its own local color and
nothing more and within that simplicity what energy the dance is one of the few
entirely convincing images of ecstasy made in the 20th century that circle of
twisting stamping me nads takes you right back down the line to the red
figure vowels of greece and beyond them to the caves it tries to be as old as
dance itself Matisse got the idea in the summer of nineteen five at Kohler while
watching some fishermen and peasants in a circular down the other side of this coin was an
intense interest in civilized craft Islamic pottery Persian miniatures
Matisse loved patent and through it he gives you the illusion of a completely
full world where everything background foreground and in-between acts equally
on the odd one of the results was the red studio which he painted in 1912 on
one hand he wants to bring you into the painting to make you fall into it like
walking through the looking-glass that box of crayons is put just under your
hand as it was under his but then it isn’t a real space and because it’s all
soaked in red a red beyond ordinary experience it describes itself as a
fiction as art like a Persian miniature it’s all inlaid
pattern and more than that everything in it is a work either of art or of craft
the paintings are Matisse’s so are the sculptures the only hint of nature is
the plant but it’s a very tame plant a house plant trying to be a work of art
and it’s trained to rhyme with the curves of that chair and those curves
are also reflected on the other side of the room in a pink painting of a nude so
the red studio is among other things a poem about how painting refers to itself
how earth nourishes itself from other arts and how to this cast of mind are to
conform its own Republic of pleasure a Switzerland a parenthesis within the
real world a paradise in 1916 Matisse moved more or less permanently to the
South of France – nice he found an apartment in the hotel
Regina named after Queen Victoria who had stayed there when the Great War
broke out in 1914 he was 45 too old to fight too wise to imagine that his
painting could interpose itself between history and its victims and to certain
of his aims as an artist to change them anyway I don’t suppose that any great
artist since the 18th century is so devoted his work to an idea of comfort
and refuge Matisse once said that he wanted his out to have the effect of a
good armchair upon a tired businessman now 20 years ago when we thought that
art was going to change the world this seemed at best rather and limited a but
now that I’m sure that it can turn at once I can only admire Matisse is common
sense he thought that an educated bourgeoisie
is the one audience that an advanced art can claim and it seems that history as
shown he was right anyway this is where he lose
we painted the Great Indoors and how fitting it is that so many of Matisse’s
best paintings should have been done in apartments and hotel the room is a
metaphor of their nature a private place always fresh signifying luxury the
playpen of the adult mind a room with a view and the common theme of Matisse’s
Mediterranean interiors is that of looking out on benevolent nature through
a position of absolute security the filter between those two worlds is the
shadows my purpose is to render my motion this
state of soul is created by the objects which surround me and which reacted me
from The Horizon to myself I expresses naturally the space and the objects
which are situated there as if I had only the sea in the sky in front of me
that is the simplest thing in the world in order to paid by pictures I need to
remain for several days in the same state of mind and I don’t find this in
any atmosphere but that of the Cote d’Azur there were other painters who
believe their emotional temperature was always right on the Mediterranean
notably Pierre Bonner who after years of painting trips to the South finally
moved to this house near calm in 1925 Matisse would never have lived in a
garden like this in some ways Bonar was his opposites the little bourgeois
against the grand one a poet of unpruned domestic intimacy rather than of the
grand apartment Matisse’s compositions carried an air of formal grandeur of
declamation in the higher tradition of French art but bond ours did not instill
life he took things as he found them or at least he painted them to seem so the
arrangement of jugs and bowls and plates on that breakfast table seems fragile
and chauncey they’ve strayed into view and even when the still lack is more
arranged like this one he vaporizes it with color and with loose brushwork said
that it seems soft half-formed ready to disappear as moments do everything in
Bana is seen with the private eye not the public one the food about the house
the flowers around the house and the woman she’s almost always the same woman marry
boss are born I met her in 1894 and after a liaison that lasted more than 30
years he finally married her they then lived together until 1942 when
she died far from being the content of Painters wife in a cottage in the South
of France she was a nagging jealous shrew who made life impossible for him
and his friends knew nothing about painting and couldn’t even cook but he
was utterly and masochistic ly loyal to her Bernard was obsessed with the facts
of domesticity and the memories of sexual pleasure the privacy and the
glimpsing the feeling that the eye is privileged a party to all secrets the sexuality of early Bana is still
amazing at a certain point around 1920 she stops getting older when she was
sixty when I was still painting her 30 year old body but she is always apart self-absorbed
spied on the perpetual Susanna in her bath with burn ours the perpetually
peeping elder dissolving her in light reconstituting her in color possessing
her again and again from a distance the greatest painter of discipline
pleasure between the walls was Georges Braque in 1915 of fracture opened in
barracks career he joined the army and he was shot in the head there was no
brain damage but he couldn’t paint for some years when he got back to the easel
he had decided once and for all that he could push no further towards
abstraction there is in nature he remarked a tactile I almost mean manual
space and this is what he explored in the still lives of the 20s and 30s if
ever a group of paintings made concrete the desire for measure sublimation
attention and calm it was these the objects are ordinary a guitar newspapers
bottles the routine subjects of cubism but each is given its exact visual
weight he wanted to distribute one’s attention across the painting as evenly
as possible what all this meant was an ambition different from cubism to pick
up and reassemble the pieces of the French tradition of still life painting
that brach as a cubist it helped to shatter the result is solid or than
cubism less hypothetical he even mix sand with his paint to give it more body
to endow it with a more resistant surface like fresco and to insist upon a
slowness of inspection parallel to the immense deliberation which he brought to
the act of painting there wasn’t very much in Picasso sir but over the same 25
years that could really equal that kind of frozen music but then Picasso had no
talent for serenity his whole idea of pleasure was much more prehensile than
Broncs he wanted to seize and touch and absorb and enter the objects of the
Mediterranean he likes strong specific sensations the strongest note of feeling was six
Makassar never tried to hide what he felt about it and when his fear of women
was aroused and it often was he had to paint it out so at one end of the scale
he produced some of the most demonic images of women ever done
this isn’t Distortion it’s more like dismemberment killing the witch but on
the other hand he painted some of the most intense images of sexual pleasure
in all modern art they were provoked by his affair with a woman named married to
raise without there whom he met in 1931 in the paintings her body becomes not so
much a structure of flesh and bone as a series of orifices looped together by
that sinuous line tender composed swollen abandoned the point is not that
Picasso managed to will himself into the skin of this woman not at all he
depicted his own state of arousal and projected it on his lover’s body like an
image on a screen her body is reformed in the shape of his desire and it’s
recognizable to any where it was about this time that Picasso began to
mythologize himself as the mediterranean artist with a series of etchings called
the voila suite one part of this marvelous cycle
is autobiographical or at any rate in a loose way soft descriptive the sculptor
and his model Shiva passive and obliging nymph
and he the genius of the place a sort of River God in costume these prints were
Picasso’s invocation of the past they enabled him to place himself in Arcadia
the volary was one of the most convincing parts of a general revival of
antiquity seen in terms of the cult of the Sun of pleasure and the healthy body
that went on in the 1920s and spilled over into the 1930s it goes without
saying that there was a much more complicated and Daffy ridden Picasso
behind these antique simplicity Picasso’s images the old man of the sea
was to some extent a role just as Hemingway as famous cojones were a mask
worn on the groin nevertheless the volar sweet remains the last major work of art
to be directly inspired by the classical Mediterranean it’s the end of an immense
tradition that lasted for more than 2,500 years and then perished amid the
historical disjunction the suffering the physical ruin and the irony of the 20th
century within 40 years of the completion of the valer Street officials
in Athens were debating whether to remove the caryatids from the Acropolis
and replaced them with fiberglass copies and the whole Cote d’Azur was one
massive pinball machines and pizza parlors from end to end of course the
more the tradition receded the more famous picasso became he turned into a
kind of living fetish objects he was famous as no other artist ever had been
but none of his later Arcadian images were going to carry quite the same
conviction as the voilá Street because World War Two had killed the classical
Mediterranean just as surely as World War one killed the Belle époque one of
the first tremors of modernism is in a poem by Milania called the afternoon of
a four and it’s very first line runs I would perpetuate these nymphs Picasso’s
motto too but those nymphs couldn’t survive except as a sort of dumb decor
after Auschwitz and Hashima or even after Guernica and Picasso’s efforts to
maintain an Arcadian art in his old age began to look less and less convincing
this didn’t happen with the aging Matisse whose art in the early 1940s was
suddenly clarified by a brush with death there was long surgery and then a long
convalescence my terrible operation has completely rejuvenated and made a
philosopher of me I had so completely prepared for my exit from life but it
seems to me that I mean the second life he expressed this rebirth not with a
brush but with scissors and colored paper he cut out shapes and pinned them
on a wall or a sheet of paper and cutting straight into color he said
reminded him of the direct carving of a sculptor it linked drawing and color in
one sweep of the hand the images were like heraldic emblems of
pleasure signs for well-being at an age when most painters are either dead or
repeating themselves Matisse had reentered the avant-garde and redefined
it these cutouts were the most advanced painting and perhaps the most August
being made in Europe they showed the wholeness of gesture that most abstract
painting wanted but didn’t always reach the first coordination of hand mind eye
and memory as the scissors flowed through the paper one cut the essence of
decision and then the pleasurable digestion moving the shapes around
pinning them here and there until the harmony was reached the cutouts summed
up what he had learnt about Islamic art over the years since his first visits to
North Africa and Spain one of their sources lies in Moorish tiles in the
walls of the alambre in Granada but they were more than decorative because
Matisse more than any other artist except Picasso had saturated his work in
the memory of physical sensation of sunshine and water the ecstasy of
healthy bodies salt and wine and flowers the Mediterranean world which he evokes
for the last time in a frieze of diving figures the swimming pool this was his farewell to a subject which
had been one of the tests of an artists virtuosity since the 15th century the
human-animal in energetic movement the body stripped of its guilt any end in
itself between 1947 and 1951 Matisse was continuously busy with what he called
the last stage an entire lifetime of work and the apex of an immense sincere
and difficult efforts it was also probably the last major work of art that
Catholicism would be able to evoke in our century and this was the dominican
chapel here in vas for which he designed just about everything the murals the
stained glass window the crucifix a lot it was a hard act to follow in secular
terms there was everything to be learned from Matisse he was the most influential
painter of the third quarter of the 20th century as Picasso had been of the
second quarter and Cezanne of the first especially in America but there was
something in his work that wouldn’t transplant across the Atlantic what
wouldn’t transplant was it’s Mediterranean thus that ease and
sensuous completeness that was rooted in Matisse’s own youth this wasn’t a matter
of style it was a matter of a complete attitude towards life and how to live it
and how to sustain human relationships which came out of the 19th century and
for thousands of people was wrecked by the last world war after that you could
paint Matisse’s certainly but you couldn’t be Matisse that particular
paradise was closed especially if you happen to live in a highly utilitarian
society fueled by pragmatism and guilt like post-freudian America

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *