The story of the artist and his muse is one of the most well-worn themes in the history of art, with every great master invariably having a lover – or several – to inspire his finest works.
But Matisse’s early works were based by something rather different, it appears: cheap, semi-pornographic magazines.
A new blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy is to show how Matisse used explicit pseudo- anthropological magazines to inspire his nude sculptures, being too poor to afford to hire a life model.
The artist, described as terribly poor and quite reserved in his early years, used photographs of naked women as the basis of his sculptures, with two key examples now due to go on display.
They are among around 65 items to go on show at the Royal Academy, part of its 2017 season, which will exhibit Matisse’s personal collections alongside his great art.
In particular it will identify the often mundane, cheap items of homeware and memorabilia he used throughout his career, painting and sculpting them over the decades.
The exhibition is the first of its kind to examine the original items alongside the works they appeared in, and will see pieces loaned from surviving members of the Matisse family as well as major museums.
Among them are a chocolate pot given to Matisse as a wedding present, which later made an appearance in Bouquet of Flowers in a Chocolate Pot 1902 and Still Life With a Shell in 1940.
African masks from the family collection will go on display for the first time, along with sculptures such as Jeanette V 1913 which they influenced.
Other items will include ceramics, glassware, metal pots, and textiles.
Ann Dumas, the curator, said two exhibits would show early nude sculptures alongside the photographs from L’Humanité feminine and Mes Modèles magazines they were based on.
We’re including magazines of the time which were semi-pornographic, with photos of nude women, which Matisse was buying because at the time he couldn’t afford to pay the models, she said.
So he was using the poses in these magazines.
He was terribly poor right at the beginning. I also think he was quite interested in the poses he found in these magazines.
It was something he could pick up and put down all the time, whereas with the model you’re confined to a session when the model is physically there. It’s a lot more flexible.
She added of the exhibition as a whole: This will feature about 65 of Matisse’s paintings, sculptures and drawings, shown alongside objects from his personal collection.
It’s the first exhibition to consider this collection of objects that came from all corners of the world, and how these served as a motif, point of departure, and an extended exploration in Matisse’s creative process over time.
Often they’re things of no particular monetary value, really quite humble objects, but the interest of course is in how Matisse used them.
The 2017 season will be the last at the Royal Academy before a major transformation of the building is unveiled in 2018.
Other highlights of the 2017 RA season includes America After the Fall, which will star Grant Wood’s famous American Gothic portrait.
The painting, one of the most recognisable works of 20th century art in the world, will leave North America for the first time especially for the show, having been loaned outside the US only once before, to Canada.
Andrea Tarsia, head of exhibitions, said: It has become one of the most celebrated icons of American art and this is the first time it will be viewed outside North America.”
Tim Marlow, the RA’s artistic director, said the institution was now enjoying record numbers of friends, with 100,000 people now signed up, and 1.2 million visitors through its arches last year.
Matisse in the Studio will open on August 5, 2017.
Other highlights of the 2017 season include:
Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932:
A study of Russian art from 1917, the year of the October Revolution, to 1932 when Stalin began his violent suppression of the Avant-Garde. More than 200 works on show include paintings with photography, sculpture, film, posters and porcelain by Avant-Garde artists, such as Chagall, Kandinsky, Malevich and Tatlin, alongside the Socialist Realism of Brodsky, Deineka, Mukhina and Samokhvalov.
America after the Fall: Painting in the 1930s:
An exploration of how the Wall Street Crash changed American art. From depictions of the farmland of the mid-West to representations of life in the city, the exhibition will showcase 45 works from the period with contributions from Thomas Hart Benton, Jackson Pollock, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keefe and Philip Guston. It will star Grant Wood’s American Gothic, which will leave North America for the very first time.
Described as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, Jasper Johns and his works will star in a dedicated exhibition to showcase his new vocabulary in painting.
The unusual friendship between Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí will be explored in a new exhibition, detailing their shared attitiudes to art, life and humour. Over 60 works of art, the RA said it would demonstrate the aesthetic, philosophical and personal links between them, giving a fresh view of two of the twentieth century’s most famous artists.
C. F. Tunnicliffe RA:
Late Academician Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe, famous for his illustrations of British birds and other fauna, will have his own exhibition. It will include prints and illustrations for books including the 1932 edition of Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter, several Ladybird books and Brooke Bond tea cards.
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