Time and Motion

British artist Tom Phillips, cited on this blog before, wrote a very interesting review of the Matisse cut-out show. He mentions a film of the artist at work which shows “…Matisse in his wheelchair cutting paper with scissors….Matisse often associated this process of ‘sculpting in colour’ with flying, though another action that comes to mind is a favorite pursuit of his younger years, swimming, especially as evoked by his own descriptions of plunging into the volcanic lagoons under what he referred to as the ‘golden goblet’ of the Tahitian sky.” To see carving or drawing as equivalent to swimming or flying is to stress the changes over the results, time over place. But the most affecting aspect of the cut-outs is that time was running out for the old man. All that great work happened in a few short years, his last years, and they were not the easiest or most comfortable for him. As usual, the pain and the difficulties overcome are what matter most, and Phillips is good on that.

Aged Matisse working in bed

Aged Matisse working in bed

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