PLATE 20

Painted in 19l9

THE ARTIST AND HIS MODEL

23 5/8 x 28 3/4"

Like Painting Lesson (plate 21) and other pictures and also many drawings, this shows the artist himself at work (sometimes only his hand, with paper or canvas, will appear). It is as if to hint that works of art and the activity of art are just as real as that which they picture, and inhabit the same kind of space. Elsewhere (as in plates 19 and 28) finished works are "illustrated," and the unconscious point is the same.

This delectable painting, with its stripes, the compact lucidity of its color, and its crisp drawing, incarnates the "rococo" Matisse, connoisseur of feminine flesh. "Women are," he once told Pierre Courthion, the Swiss critic, "de grands enfants." His detachment lets him view the female body as a consumer's article, but it also enables him to convert into a masterpiece a subject and arrangement others could use only to decorate a candy box.

 

PLATE 21

Painted in 1919

PAINTING LESSON

29 x 36"

Many of the paintings Matisse did in this year are particularly pleasing because of their bland, limpid color, fluent drawing, and cozy subject matter. This picture and The Artist and his Model (previous plate) are cases in point. Both have a solidity and fiber, however, that are dissembled by their ingratiating qualities.

Two quasi-complementary pairs of color, yellow and pale blue, pink and pale green, tinkle to the accompaniment of browns running from the umbers in the girl's hair and the background across the ocher of the mirror frame into the thinner ocher of the artist's back and canvas. These browns and tans accentuate the freshness of the other colors.

The background is crucial, however. The thinness with which the burnt umber is scumbled in, permitting the lighter ground beneath to breathe warmth through it, brings the background forward to clasp the ovals of head and mirror instead of dropping away -- as it might -- to leave a dark, meaningless void. In this unassuming but perfect work the mere mechanical craft of painting provides all the vision necessary.