Notes on Matisse and Some Life Realizations

So a couple of days ago my mom and I went to an art exhibit here in Rome that I've been wanting to catch for awhile now...the work of Henri Matisse.

Now granted I'm not the artsy-fartsiest of them all, but I do appreciate the arts and find myself responding to them increasingly more often...especially exquisite use of color, which Matisse mastered....

Shame you can't take pics in most museums. It's a rule I always, ALWAYS have to discourage my inner id from breaking. Dammit if I didn't ALMOST snap a pic of this...

Goldfish was my favorite

Only two things stopped me from doing so: the fact I was there with my mother who would have shamed me, and that there was a group of kindergarten students, one of whom gasped when I accidentally (it was an accident, promise) stepped over the gray line that separates the art observers from the art. It's a wonder the buzzer didn't go off when I did so.

Anyway, I was really taken with that group of young children because the experience they were having with their teacher and a couple of parent chaperones was a real gift in life that they may or may not recall as they get older. It was a large group, maybe 25 kids, and they were, as expected, incredibly loud.

Their teacher, an elderly woman with coloured frames, spoke to them in a soft but authoritative tone, saying things like:

"What does that color make you think of?" and "Who knows? Maybe Matisse painted with his eyes closed and tried to think like a child..."

Again, these kids are no more than 3 or 4 years old. Having art class. At a Matisse exhibit. Seeing that really moved me as an educator. Our children, all children, DESERVE experiences like that. They deserve to have their minds and imaginations and lives and vocabularies enriched by EXPERIENCING the arts. It's a true shame that so much of the funding for arts programs is being cut and poured into standardized testing, particularly in the states.

The last delightful thing I heard the teacher say was, "We can create these colours! Right, Alibert? Alibert?? ALIBERT! Maybe you won't be coming to the museum next time..."

I smiled.
Teaching and teachers have so many similarities...everywhere.

Not only was I moved by the art, but also by some of Matisse's quotes on display on various walls in the exhibit, like this one:

"I often visited Gertrude Stein in the Rue de Fleurus. On the way was a little antique shop. One day I noticed in its window a small Negro head in wood which reminded me of the huge red porphyry heads in the Egyptian galleries of the Louvre. I felt that the methods of writing form were the same in the two civilisations, no matter how foreign they may be to each other in every other way. So I bought the head for a few francs and took it along to Gertrude Stein's. There I found Picasso

who was astonished by it. We discussed it at length, and that was the beginning of the interest we have all taken in Negro art, and we have shown it, to greater or lesser degrees, in our pictures. It was a time of new was a time of artistic cosmogony.

-Henri Matisse, 1952

And here are some random thoughts and realisations I had while perusing the work of a genius...
Every artist has influence.
Art as translation is an idea to explore.
The creative process is messy.
Sketches often look nothing like the finished outcome.
Sketches should be signed anyway. Even the ideas are valuable.
Each artist has their thing...I like palm trees like Matisse.
Exquisite use of color
Wallpaper is important
I like big signatures when figures are big in art.

After lunch my mom and I went to La Quercia, a restaurant near Campo de' Fiori, and passed by a vendor selling Tunisian plates.

I bought a couple of cups and plates, and could see very clearly the brilliant North African influence in Matisse's art...and real life.

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