Matisse - a cut above the rest



The weather wasn't kind to the large group of art lovers who filled the Dark Horse Coffee House on Wednesday 10 December to be escorted by Aine MacParland through the colourful world of Henri Matisse.
Aine's enthusiasm for her subject was readily apparent as she flicked her way through her iPad presentation.  She began at Le Cateau-Cambresis in Northern France where Henri-Emile-Benoit Matisse was born on New Year's Eve, 1869. Aine explained that although his father was a grain merchant, the family background was one of weaving and the young Henri grew up surrounded by a variety of colurful fabrics.
He had graduated as a lawyer and had been destined for a careeer in that profession until he suffered a bout of appendicitis.  It was while recovering from this that his mother provided him with some art materials and he discovered what he called a kind of paradise, throwing hiimself into that new world as a beast plunges into something it loves.
Referring to several works, Aine took us on a style journey - stopping for a while to consider and explain how Matisse came to be associated with the movement of the Fauves, the wild beasts.
We were introduced to some key people in Matisse's life among them his wife Noellie from whom he would later separate and Russian art collector, Sergei Shchukin who considered the artist's work to be above the rest.
Aine went on to explain that Matisse received much unfavourable criticism of his work and that along with his wont of buying works of other artists and his own materials often meant that his young family found it difficult to make ends meet.
We learned that, in 1917, Matisse moved to Cimiez outside Nice on the French Riviera, Aine all the while pointing out the qualities of his art, bringing us through a series of paintings to 1939 and the aforementioned separation from Noellie. Shortly afterwards a further period of illness meant the artist had a colostomy with mobility only possible with the use of a wheelchair.
Matisse overcame the confinements of this situation through "painting with scissors", creating his famous gouaches découpés - cut outs - many of which Aine noted had been recently displayed in the Tate and were currently showing in the MoMA in New York.
Caring for Matisse in what would be the later stages of his life was his nurse, Monique Bourgeois. We learned that Monique in addition to being Matisse's nurse was also his student, sometimes model and artist who would later become a Dominican nun.  It was their association, that would provide Matisse with what he considered his masterwork - the decoration of La Chapelle de Vence on the hillside above Nice, completed in 1951.
The artist died in 1954 and was buried in the cemetery of Cimiez where four year's later his wife, Noellie would be enterred alongside him.

Finally, Aine took questions from the audience and as an artist herself confirmed that she would provide us with a iPad painting that we could present on our site as a record of a most memorable and colourful evening on the modern master Matisse.