Henri Matisse | Patitcha souriante (Patitcha smiling) 1947 | Purchased 1993 with funds from the International Exhibitions Program |
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © Henri Matisse 1947/Succession H Matisse/Licensed by Viscopy, Sydney, 2011
Yesterday I went to the Matisse: Drawing Life exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art. It was beautiful. There were more than 300 drawings, prints and even some paintings. Matisse is well regarded as a painter, but it was just wonderful to see so many of his drawings in one place.
Frank O'Hara wrote in Personism: A Manifesto that when writing poetry "You just go on your nerve. If someone's chasing you down the street with a knife you just run, you don't turn around and shout, 'Give it up! I was a track star for Mineola Prep.'" It is a fabulous and often quoted line but it reminds me of how Matisse draws. He just does it. There are beautifully detailed rendered drawings, tonally accurate and technically brilliant, but for me his best works are the ones with the expressive lines, the quick sketches, the portraits with only a few lines. Matisse has a sureness in his lines that you find in great artists like Picasso and Brett Whiteley, the ability to put it on paper with ink and not make a false line. You can see it in Matisse's prints too, there was a number of dry point etchings (where you work directly onto the metal plate with a pointed instrument) and lithographs (where you draw directly into the stone with a wax crayon) and you could see his directness, you could see that they were experimental and that he was "going on his nerve" creating lines that cannot be erased. These drawings and prints have an unmistakable immediacy to them, they are gestural, expressionistic and beautifully brief.
The exhibition runs until the 4th of March 2012 and is certainly worth the $16-$20 entry fee. There is also a studio set up where you can draw, art materials supplied, so give yourself plenty of time.