Primary Source Hunt: Matisse February 17, 2013Posted by Kaleena Tucker in : Uncategorized , trackback
Instructions: Seek a librarian’s assistance to find all relevant and contemporary writing concerning the assigned topic. The topic for this assignment is “Henri Matisse, early exhibition of Modernist art in New York City, 1911.” Find reviews from that era about this exhibition or any other concurrent writing that relates to this topic. Only writing that dates from the years 1911 – 1913 will be considered. (*Edited to include the years 1908 – 1911.)
I began my search by asking a Librarian at the Nashville Public Library’s Main Branch for assistance. After hearing the topic, he pointed me toward the Fine Arts section of the Library with 4 books in mind. That search led me to the fifth book on my list (Matisse: Painter as Sculptor). This was the first book to mention Alfred Stieglitz’s role as a curator for Matisse’s work. That information proved to be a golden nugget within my search for Matisse’s early shows in New York.
1. Klein, John. Matisse Portraits. New Haven: Yale UP, 2001. Print.
2. Watkins, Nicholas, and Henri Matisse. Matisse. New York: Oxford UP, 1985. Print.
3. Spurling, Hilary, Henri Matisse, and Hilary Spurling. Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, the Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954. New York: A.A. Knopf, 2005. Print.
4. Spurling, Hilary. The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse, the Early Years, 1869-1908. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Print.
5. Kosinski, Dorothy M., Jay McKean Fisher, Steven A. Nash, and Henri Matisse. Matisse: Painter as Sculptor. Baltimore, MD: Baltimore Museum of Art, 2007. Print.
When I entered the library on Day 2 of my search, I began with a sharpened focus. I used the library’s digital database to search for the keywords “Stieglitz” and “New York” and “291.” Though “291” did not yield results, the following three books proved to have the most potential, with the last one on the list being a perfect match.
6. Homer, William Innes., and Catherine Johnson. Stieglitz and the Photo-Secession, 1902. New York: Viking Studio, 2002. Print.
7. Stieglitz, Alfred, and Bonnie Yochelson. Alfred Stieglitz: New York. New York, NY: Skira Rizzoli, 2010. Print.
8. Greenough, Sarah. Modern Art and America: Alfred Stieglitz and His New York Galleries. Washington [D.C.: National Gallery of Art, n.d. Print.
Speaking directly about the exhibitions at 291 (1908)
“On 1 April Stieglitz sent out the following invitation: “An Exhibition of Drawings, Lithographs, Watercolors, and Etchings by M. Henri Matisse, of Paris, will be held at the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession opening on April sixth and closing April twenty-fifth… Matisse is the leading spirit of a modern group of French artists dubbed ‘Les Fauves.’ The work of this group has been the center of discussion in the art-world of Paris during the past two to three years. It is the good fortune of the Photo-Secesson to have the honor of thus introducing Matisse to the American public and to the American art-critics.”
Bad Reviews from critics were mainly in response to this “new” art:
1. Speaking of Matisse’s show, a critic for American Art News referenced the artist’s inability “to form or pass even fair judgment upon the remarkable productions of this bizarre artist or artisan.” He continued to describe the, “spots of paint daubed on here and there… not at first recognizable.”
- Exhibitions Now-On: Work by Henri Matisse, “American Art News 6 (11 April 1908)
2. Joseph E. Chamberlin from the Evening Mail said the work would “go over the head of the ordinary observer.”
- Chamberlin, New York Evening Mail
3. A critic for the Craftsman thought that Matisse was a “poseur”. He describes Matisse as “the leading spirit of a group of ultra-modern Frenchmen, many of whom have great gift with tragically decadent souls.”
- “Notes and Reviews,” The Craftsmen 14 (June 1908)
4. “female figures that are of an ugliness that is most appalling and haunting.”
- Chamberlin, New York Evening Mail
Good Reviews were mainly focused on technique:
5. “A great master of technique–and a great artist, if estimated from the brilliant stroke, the subtle elimination and the interesting composition revealed.”
- “Notes and Reviews,” The Craftsmen (1908)
6. “Strangely beautiful” and “virile and masterly strokes”
- Huneker, “Exhibitions Now On: Work by Henri Matisse, “ American Art News 6 (11 April 1908)
Reviews from other artists:
7. “They had no meaning to me as Art as I then knew Art, but the feeling I got from them still clings to me and always will. It was the feeling of a bigger, deeper, more simple and archaic world… I left feeling I had seen something living, something that would live with me, and that has lived with me.”
- William Zorach, “291,” Camera Work
Reviews from Camera Work:
8. Speaking of Matisse’s organization in his drawings, Caffin (a correspondent for Camera Work) says “He shows me a series of drawings from the nude. In the first, he explains that he has drawn ‘what exists’; and the drawing shows the knowledge and skill, characteristic of French academic art. Then others follow in which he has sought for further and further ‘simplification,’ until finally the figure, as he expressed it, was organisé.”
- “Camera Work,” Caffin (1909)
Overall, this was an interesting experience. I’m ashamed to say that it’s been years since I have physically visited a library. For that reason, I was a bit resistant to the idea and wondered what I would gain from the visit. After it’s all said and done, I can honestly say that it wasn’t so bad after all. I felt more connected to the material I was reading vs. simply reading material that shows up from google links.