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    Description

    Henri Matisse. Autograph Manuscript Signed. "Henri Matisse." Fifteen pages [rectos only] in French, entitled "Notes d'un peintre", 7.77" x 12.25" [pages 1-8] and 8" x 10.5" [pages 9-15], n.p.; [1908].
    This is a draft, with cross-outs, inserted words, and corrected copy overlays glued to some of the pages, of Matisse's first published essay, "Notes of a Painter," which was published on December 25, 1908 in La Grande Revue, a prestigious French literary journal. Considered one of the most important statements of the 20th century by an influential artist, the essay was composed at a time when Matisse's work was being criticized by both Impressionists and Cubists. His essay is a statement of in what he believes are the basic tenets of his art as well as an attempt to answer his critics.

    Matisse begins his essay admitting that "A painter who addresses the public" not just in order to present his works, but to reveal some of his ideas on the art of painting, "exposes himself to several dangers," including invading " the domain of the man of letters." Matisse then moves into a description of his art. "What I am after, above all, is expression." For him, expression "does not reside in passions glowing in a human face or manifested by violent movement," for the entire arrangement of his painting is expressive. As he writes in the published version, "A work of art must be harmonious in its entirety: any superfluous detail would replace some other essential detail in the mind of the spectator." "Composition," according to Matisse, "the aim of which should be expression, is modified according to the surface to be covered. If I take a sheet of paper of a given size, my drawing will have a necessary relationship to its format. I would not repeat this drawing on another sheet of different proportions, for example, rectangular instead of square. Nor should I be satisfied with a mere enlargement, had I to transfer the drawing to a sheet the same shape, but ten times larger. A drawing must have an expansive force which gives life to the things around it. An artist who wants to transpose a composition from one canvas to another larger one must conceive it anew in order to preserve its expression; he must alter its character and not just square it up onto the larger canvas. Both harmonies and dissonances of color can produce agreeable effects." Matisse's manuscript draft differs from the published version slightly in places, as he uses different words and expressions in various places, but these differences do not change in any significant way the message he wants to convey. Throughout the remaining portions of the draft, as in the published version, Matisse expounds on his philosophy of his art. As he nears the end of his "Notes," Matisse presents his view of successful art and what he sees as the role of the artist. "What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.... The role of the artist, like that of the scholar, consists of seizing current truths often repeated to him, but which will take on new meaning for him and which he will make his own when he has grasped their deepest significance."

    The importance of Matisse's "Notes" at the time is reflected by the fact that when they were published they were immediately translated into German and Russian.

    Henri Émile Benoît Matisse (1869-1954), an artist known his expressiveness of color, is considered the most important French artist of the 20th century. He was a draughtsman, book illustrator, graphic artist, and sculptor, but was known primarily as a painter.

    A fascinating look at an extraordinary artist at work on a publication in which he discusses his views on his art and on the art of painting.

    Condition: Some pages have minor chipping, creasing, and soiling, but overall condition is good.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    September, 2019
    4th Wednesday
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