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Thursday, 15. December 2011

Matisse in the USA I

Matisse in the USA I


"The first time that I saw America, I mean New York, at 7 o’clock in the evening, this black and gold block in the night, reflected in the water, I was in complete ecstacy. Someone near me on the boat said: ‚It’s a spangled dress’, which helped me to arrive at my own image. New York seemed to me like a gold nugget."

Henri Matisse 1930

Though we did not arrive in New York by ship, as Matisse did in 1930, the view from the airplane window over the city shrouded in mist was surely impressive.

The US plays an important role in a concern with Matisse. Ever since the Fauves' breakthrough, his art was valued and extensively acquired by collectors there. Not least, Matisse's work was later continually present in the gallery run by his son, Pierre. Pierre also acted as a middleman for commissions from American collectors, such as the Brody couple in Los Angeles.

US experts have devoted themselves to Matisse in terms not only of art history but of conservation. With regard to the papiers découpées, this activity is represented above all by Antoinette King, former paper conservator at the Museum of Modern Art, who published a fundamental article on procedures and techniques in 1977.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), where Alfred Barr earned particular merits with regard to Matisse, possesses major papiers découpées in addition to many paintings. On our visit it was especially fascinating to compare La Piscine and Souvenir d'Océanie with Acanthes. A lively and fruitful exchange with the museum's conservator and curators ensued, revolving, among other questions, around the differing effects of aging seen in the works' backgrounds.