Matisse Exhibitions

The past several weeks have been a whirlwind, which now leaves me with quite a bit to catch up on. 

But first, I wanted to make sure I mention a rather wonderful double exhibition that is currently on (but quickly coming to an end) at the Memorial Art Gallery. Also at the Tate Modern until September is "Henri Matisse: the Cut-Outs" :)

Image courtesy of the MAG

First, there is the "Matisse as Printmaker: Works from the Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation" showing in the Grand Gallery and featuring works of a variety of Henri Matisse's printmaking techniques: etchings, monotypes, lithographs, linocuts, and more. 

There isn't a great amount of work in colour, mostly black and white, but still very interesting to see the rough sketches and ideas of more well-known pieces…and his line!

The Persian, lithograph

Several weeks before I visited the gallery, I had been talking to a friend about it, and we had gotten on to talking about the his stained-glass windows in the Rosaire Chapel in Vence, near Nice…I wish I could see that sunlight streaming through them in person. But happily, there were a couple of simple pattern designs/prints at the exhibition. Somehow his transition from paper cuts, prints, and paint to working in glass of all materials, seems so seamless… If you click here, you'll find a short segment featuring the chapel, from the BBC documentary "Modern Masters." 

Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence

For me, though, the highlight of the exhibition was in the smaller gallery, which featured the ceramic work of Henri Matisse's great-grandson, Alexander Matisse. (I hope I'll be forgiven for introducing him the way I did, especially after how in his opening guest lecture he talked about the challenges and struggles a young person faces when continuing in the same "career" path as his or her famous relative.  I put "career" in quotation marks because art, music…these creative fields…are they careers or lifestyles and ways of looking at the world differently?

It must become exhausting and probably very frustrating at times to live with a reputation that always precedes you…and to try to stand in your own light that you've created yourself… Having said that, the fact that his website merely says that he "grew up…in a family of artists" seems very humble and beautiful to me. 

He spoke a bit about how he started in clay, his different mentors at school, apprenticeships, and beyond, moving from the New England area down to North Carolina and the rich traditions  of ceramics in the south-eastern parts of the States. It was so refreshing to hear him talk about the process of working with clay -- of taking raw materials and earth and fashioning them into something both aesthetically pleasing and functional. Such a nice concept, no? 

Image courtesy of

But I did feel saddened by the way several audience members laughed aloud when he talked about  (I'm paraphrasing now because this was several weeks ago) how failing to meet his own standard of work -- either from the clay not working the way he'd like, the glaze, the kiln, and so on -- might throw him into a mood or depression for days. I wish people could be a little more sensitive to how artists work and think.

The last time I sat down at the wheel to throw something when I was about ten years old, so I won't profess to know anything about the different types of clay, slip-trailing, firing, and so on! But please have a look at these wonderful clips of Alexander Matisse's process, and also here at his website: Here is a link to his most recent catalogue of work. 

I do hope you'll be able to visit the MAG for this, especially because you must be there in person to get a sense of scale of some of these pieces, and to especially see all how the different glazes sparkle and shine in the light!

All ceramic images above are © 2014 East Fork Pottery