Henri Matisse Our Impression of Essay

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An artist writing is not new; in act, it is a way by which many artists demonstrate their arguments and they also reveal how an artist thinks about many things, his art included. Naturally, because of Matisse's fame, there would be much written about him and from the writings of his peer, we can see more of what was going on at the height of Matisse's career from those who experienced it. The result of such study is "striking" (5) as Benjamin puts it because it "shows that we cannot, from a similarity of professed theories, infer a similarity in styles of painting"(5). We must instead focus on what the artist produced and weight it against his thoughts.

Matisse studied at the Academy Carriere, who was "interested in the question of art education" (70). His schools floundered a bit in that they were closed and suffered from mixed reviews. When he met Carriere, Matisse was working all the time. He would work early in the morning at the Academy, copies in the Louvre, attend sketching sessions, and taking night classes. Matisse fit in with other painters at the Academy such a Puy, Laprde, and Chabuad, who all wanted to "earn reputations as advanced painters in the first years of the century" (71). Matisse's relationship with Carriere is interesting and Matisse is said to have stated that his time at the Academy was tranquil. Matisse writes that while Carriere did not speak to him, he told him later that he "wanted to respect my idea, which interested him!" (Matisse qtd. In Benjamin 71). Benjamin doubts that Carriere said nothing to Matisse and Puy is known to have stated that Carriere treated Matisse with "esteem and respect" (71). Benjamin asserts that the best guide we have in knowing whether or not Carriere ever critiqued Matisse can be found in Azar du Marest's article in which he states that while the two men were different in terms of practice, they could still agree with one another on principle. Carriere is known to have said, "The artist must seek out his own kind of truth and avoid schools" 'No system have ever produced a single artist.' What matters is conviction" (72). His rule of conduct for the artist is to "accept nothing that comes from outside of oneself or without the consent of one's own nature' (73). Benjamin suggests that this notion of individuality can be seen in Matisse's writings. Benjamin also notes that it was distressing to Matisse when others tried to imitate his work. In an interview, he explains that his work is the result of "nurturing his own artistic personality, of learning to recognize, refine and develop it by measuring it against the art of others in a journey that leads 'to the total abandonment of everything which was not in yourself'" (72).

Matisse and Carriere seemed to share the notion that the "creative act is seen in terms of a transfer of energies" (73) but they did not agree on issues of line and color. Carriere saw landscape in terms of "light rather than color" 973) and understood the "law of synthesis" (73), which connected the real to the unreal. Carriere stated that the "supreme characteristic of harmony . . . is serenity" (74). Matisse shared this sentiment in that he saw art as giving "repose of the spirit" (74), noting that he dreams of an "art of balance, of purity and tranquility" (Matisse qtd. In Benjamin). Benjamin contends that there are three elements that can be related to theories in relation to Matisse. One is the scientific study of how a painted area reacts to it neighbor. Another is the search for the "tone which dominates all others in the picture" (77) and the last is the search for the "inhibited expression" (77) within the art itself. Benjamin notes that Carriere had once put his student's shortcomings down to the insufficiency of his emotion" (78), and it is this attitude that helped Matisse mature.

Henri Matisse's life is one that clearly defines the term artist. His goal was to not only be the best that he could be but strike out and find new ground in doing so. His relationships with people help us understand who he is and the social perspectives presented by Bois and Benjamin help us see the man behind that art. Bois helps us understand that the artist is an organic creature, ever-evolving and Benjamin allows us to see the passion that Matisse felt in regard to art. Both men show us a different side of the artist but they culminate to create a picture of a complex man that was willing to let his art take him where it wanted him to go. Bois uses a statement often quoted by Matisse to illusrate…[continue]

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