July 27, 2015

Matisse, Le Coeur

Matisse, Le Coeur (The Heart), photo from The National Galleries of Scotland
Matisse is one of my favorite artists, and I have long been especially enthralled with his cut-outs, a body of work made late in life, when he was unable to paint or sculpt.  I went to New York last fall to see the big exhibit of his cut-outs at MoMA, which was superb.  So I've known this body of work for a long time, but still, I was stopped in my tracks at an exhibit in my college's library of the portfolio edition of Jazz.  I had seen individual pages before, but not so many laid out.  When I turned a corner and saw the image above, I started crying.  I usually find heart images overly sentimental, but this one calls out to me.  Something about the asymmetry of the heart, and its pairing with strong rectilinear shapes.  When I showed the image to David, he also started, and said it reminded him of Regret, my quilt that uses a somewhat similar shape.

A few years ago, I asked a rabbi, "Do you have a blessing for someone with a broken heart?"  He responded with a saying of the Kotzker Rebbe (d. 1859), "There is nothing more whole than a broken heart."  I've tried to create some kind of image to go with that saying, but have gotten nowhere. Now I can give up the quest, as I have the Matisse image instead.

I hadn't realized how much text there is in Jazz, and how piercing some of it is.
Here's an image of how the text is laid out (with each page about 16" high):

And one of the passages I particularly like:

"A new painting should be a unique thing, a birth bringing a new face into the representation of the world through the human spirit.  The artist should call forth all his energy, his sincerity, and the greatest possible modesty in order to push aside during his work the old clich├ęs that come so readily to his hand and can suffocate the small flower which itself never turns out as one expected."

And look at the lettering for the title, a second version directly following the first.

Several years ago, I was on the Curriculum Committee of my college when a proposal came through for a new course in the Art Department on "Typography."  A member of the committee questioned whether typography was a field in art.  Indeed, yes.