art

Speaking back to Matisse: Art Gallery of NSW dazzles with comprehensive, complicated show – The Guardian

Summary

Among the Art Gallery of NSW’s new blockbuster exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, there’s a work that may stand out to a contemporary audience. Decorative figure on an ornamental ground (1925-26) features a naked female figure embellished with ornate rugs and wallpaper; it’s beautiful, but like so much art from the time, it casts the woman solely as an object – even decoration.

Prominent feminist art theorist Linda Nochlin has said of He…….

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Among the Art Gallery of NSW’s new blockbuster exhibition Matisse: Life & Spirit, there’s a work that may stand out to a contemporary audience. Decorative figure on an ornamental ground (1925-26) features a naked female figure embellished with ornate rugs and wallpaper; it’s beautiful, but like so much art from the time, it casts the woman solely as an object – even decoration.

Prominent feminist art theorist Linda Nochlin has said of Henri Matisse and his contemporary Pablo Picasso that they “binge on the female nude but denigrate actual women”. When we meet at the exhibition, co-curator Jackie Dunn tells me: “Matisse himself said that ‘the figure is decorative, the background ornamental’.”

Decorative figure on an ornamental ground (centre) at the Art Gallery of NSW. Photograph: Mim Stirling/AGNSW

Odalisque with red culottes (Odalisque à la culotte rouge) (1921), by Matisse. Photograph: Centre Pompidou/AGNSW

Co-presented by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the show is the largest exhibition of the French artist ever seen in Sydney, featuring more than 100 works of painting, drawing and sculpture. In its accompanying exhibition, Matisse Alive, contemporary artists re-contextualise, challenge and complicate the modern master’s art and legacy.

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Matisse is known for his dramatic and expressive use of colour, and for his rivalry with Picasso in pushing the conventions of painting – played out amid his favourite subject matter, women and still lifes, which feature prominently in this exhibition. Naked women’s bodies – bathers, dancers and models – are rendered in paintings, drawings and a series of monumental bronze sculptures of backs.

But they’re offset by the exhibition’s major focus: the largest display of his late “cut-outs” to ever be shown in Australia.

The sorrow of the king (1952) and Polynesia, the Sky and Polynesia, the Sea (1946), at Matisse: Life & Spirit. Photograph: Mim Stirling/AGNSW

In 1941 Matisse was 72 years old, and ill with abdominal cancer. Following a complicated surgery, he was bedridden for months and never recovered the ability to stand and paint. Instead, he turned to paper cut-outs: drawings made with scissors, directly into coloured paper. He was particularly inspired by a trip he took to Tahiti in 1930; the vibrant blues of the works Polynesia, the Sky and Polynesia, the Sea of 1946 evoke Matisse’s experience of swimming in a lagoon off Tahiti, and the relationship of the sky above to …….

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/nov/27/speaking-back-to-matisse-art-gallery-of-nsw-dazzles-with-comprehensive-complicated-show