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November 30, 2012

Reviewing the Review: On Roberta Smith on Matisse at the Met

By Spear's

Matisse catapulted copying from ancient to appropriation

Kenny Schachter tackles Roberta Smith’s review of Mattise: In Search of True Painting at the Metropolitan Museum in New York:

“What’s astounding is that Matisse felt compelled to photograph his works in progress as ‘proof against critics’ claims that his paintings were casually dashed off.’ Call me a prude, but today, even a mere trace would be refreshing; all you get are receipts and invoices from makers and suppliers.”

Who would have thought? Matisse: precursor to The Pictures Generation of artists (Sherman, Prince, Longo, Goldstein, Levine). He catapulted copying from ancient to appropriation.

“Matisse’s practice of copying grew out of his academic training, which by long tradition involved copying old masters in the Louvre. But he shifted this exercise toward the present, copying far more contemporary works, trying out different, mostly Post-Impressionist styles.”

When a work is finished is such interesting territory, would make for great curatorial project… Sometimes I wish people would finish sooner.

“And it is almost shocking to see that the Modern’s great, sketchily painted, nearly all-blue View of Notre Dame (1914) has an unlikely fraternal twin from the same year: a relatively realistic view of that cathedral that might almost be a blowup of a postcard except for the daring brevity of its watercolor-thin pastel colors and frequent passages of exposed canvas. Both paintings challenge conventional notions of finish (I take it to mean both the quality of surface, and the unfinished appearance of exposed canvas), though from almost opposite directions.”

Another quote on finish, yet the answer will obviously always remain unknowable, so it’s moot!

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“Did Matisse start with the simpler version and like it so much that he deemed it finished, and so switched to a second canvas to make the richer if more conventional Neo-Impressionist medley he originally intended? Or did he paint the more heavily worked canvas first and then, attempting something more pared down, lose his nerve and leave the second unfinished?”

Now if I could only make it to New York!

“Matisse: In Search of True Painting” opens Tuesday and runs through March 17 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; (212) 535-7710, Read Roberta Smith’s review here.

Read more by Kenny Schachter

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