From Henri Matisse’s Notes of a Painter


A work of art must carry within itself its complete significance and impose that upon the beholder even before he recognizes the subject matter. When I see the Giotto frescoes at Padua I do not trouble myself to recognize which scene of the life of Christ I have before me, but I immediately understand the feeling that emerges from it, for it is in the lines, the composition, the color. The title will only serve to confirm my impression.

What I dream of, is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art that could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair that provides relaxation from fatigue.

Such important words from an important artist. Henri Matisse—like filmmakers Robert Bresson, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Andrei Tarkovsky—suggests that the feeling must emerge from an artwork, prior to any formation of understanding. This is a quality that is so easily understood in music, and yet, with the other arts, so easily rejected. This is where the metaphor for the “good armchair” comes to play. It is often believed that what Henri Matisse spoke of was an art like an escape, and thus, he was viewed by some as a decorative artist, something he refuted.

I think..

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