Wednesday, August 18, 2010
After Seeing Matisse in Morocco
I have always been interested on the impact of travel on the artist. How seeing new things makes us produce new things. Flaubert in Egypt, Lady Montague in Turkey, Hemingway in Spain. And so on. Travel gives the artist a new perspective. A different angle on the world. It gets us out of our rut. I'm not entirely sure why this is so, but it is. Perhaps it is just literally so. We see with different eyes.
There is, however, a favorite quote of mine from Proust. Travel isn't about seeing new places. It is about seeing with new eyes. I love this quote. It makes me think about a book I am reading now. A wonderful meditation called "The Sounds of a Wild Snail Eating." The bedridden author who cannot go anywhere is given a wild snail by a friend who picked it up in the woods. "I thought you'd enjoy it," the friend said. The narrator then spends the entire book observing her snail. With new eyes as Proust would say. And I'm sure he'd approve of her meditation. It is as beautiful and evocative writing about stasis that I have ever read.
But for those of us who can walk through portals into new worlds the newness of places enriches us. And it was clear it did so for Matisse in Morocco. I have always loved Matisse. In my own paintings, such as the one above, the influence is clear. (I feel influence and imitation are perfectly legitimate artistic endeavors. Enriching in fact. Think about the Picasso/Matisse rivalry. Only wonderful art came of it.)
Back to Matisse, I love his sense of color perhaps more than anything. The way he balances colors. And his blue paintings. The shapes. There are some amazing images in the MoMA show. For me Matisse remains fresh.
The other day Larry and I went to see the Matisse show at MoMA. I had no idea when I went that Matisse had spent time in Morocco and that it had a big influence on his art. The coincidence is that we are going to Morocco in October and it was amazing to see the kind of work - the new colors, composition, the shapes - Matisse brought to the work he did after being in Morocco. And many of these works were completed years after he returned.
It has always been a kind of cliche that travel enriches us. A junior year abroad, a travel to the continent, a journey into farther, less familiar realms. But the fact is, it does. We do see things differently. We gather material with our eyes, our noses, our ears. In Matisse's notebooks and letters we see the sketches he made for what would later become his Morocco paintings, including the famous Les Moroccans. I love seeing the germs of ideas in travel journals.
I feel as if our journey to Morocco has already begun. And we only had to ride the D train to get there.