The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has an outstanding exhibit running until March 17 of Matisse. I had been wanting to take myself to see it and finally did last Saturday.
As I got myself together and got on the train I wondered what I would experience. Having prepared myself with a sketchbook and pencils, I hoped and expected to learn something. I hadn’t been to the Met in awhile and decided to enjoy the walk from Penn Station up to 82nd street. It was a nice day, a little cool with subtle snow flurries.
As I oriented myself upon arrival I found the exhibit and felt like I walked into a calm forum of magnificence. Fortunately it wasn’t too crowded so I could stop and absorb the character and essence of these master works. I found myself looking intently at the compositions and use of color and contrasting elements. My sketchbook came out as I made notes and tried to process what was going on that made these pieces work so well.
It was most exciting to get a glimpse into Matisses process. I admired his obvious passion and diligence. For example in “La France” the viewer got to explore a series of value studies that led up to the final work of art. What I noticed was Matisse moving from a very academic rendering to successive studies that became more simplified in form and structure. Without that insight I would have never attached the final masterpiece to the original subject. I liked that aspect of his work.
As an artist, I felt liberated and inspired to observe this process. I felt his commitment and came away with a clearer understanding of his passion. He had a willingness to work and re-work a subject in a quest for answers to questions he had. In that process I see he continually discovered new things.
For me, Matisse was a master, not only due to his magnificent paintings, but because he had passion and perseverance to experiment. He wasn’t afraid. He scrubbed out, painted over, tested color, challenged perception and pushed limits over and over again. The masterpieces were a byproduct of this exploration. And in my mind, a natural outcome of his passion.
I know as a viewer of art I am attracted to art that draws me in over and over again. Matisse does that! Where there is a richness and depth there is an opportunity to come away with something new every time. That for me is the sign of a master. I only hope to paint that well one day….
I feel like I met Matisse for the first time at the Met and what a master he was and still is!