Posts Tagged ‘Henri Matisse’

  • Be Like Matisse and Reinvent Your Life as a Work of Art!

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    Throughout his long and productive 84-year career, world-renown French artist, Henri Matisse (1869-1953), continually redirected his creative energies by tackling at least six different styles of painting, sculpture, paper cut-outs, illustrated books, architectural design and stained-glass windows.

    And, all of this happened after Matisse had launched his first career as a lawyer! Yes, a lawyer. When he was eighteen, Matisse’s father encouraged him to study law in Paris. For two years, Matisse did brilliantly even though he found law boring and totally uninspiring, and then he was struck down with appendicitis. To ease his convalescence, his mother brought him a box of art supplies. Matisse said, “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life.” His father was deeply disappointed, but his mother, whose art had been limited to painting designs on porcelain, advised her son not to adhere to the “rules” of art, but rather listen to his own emotions. And that is what Matisse did – over and over again – as he was living his art.

    He began painting still-lives and landscapes in the traditional Flemish style, but quickly transitioned to Impressionism, painting his first masterpiece The Dinner Table in 1897. The French traditionalists denounced it and, discouraged by their response, Matisse briefly turned to sculpture. Though he did not pursue this for long, it continued to influence form in his painting for the rest of his life.

    His next style, Modernism, was influenced by such post-Impressionists as Paul Cézanne and Gauguin. From there, he dabbled in Pointillism and Naturalism. That’s five stylistic reinventions so far in this his second career. His sixth came in 1905, when he was considered the leader of the Fauve painting movement.

    Over the next 36 years, he created hundreds of masterpieces until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1941 and the surgery necessitated he use a wheelchair. Physically diminished, his creativity soared to new heights. He called what was to be his last 14 years, “Une seconde vie,” a second life. He created his vibrant cut paper collages, and described the process as “painting with scissors.” His assistants helped him mount the cut-outs on the walls of his room and he said, “You see, as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk… There are leaves, fruits, a bird.” Then, in 1947 he published Jazz, a brilliant, limited-edition book containing prints of his colorful cut paper collages.

    Lastly, Matisse’s final reinvention was to design in 1951 the interior and the stained-glass windows for the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence.

    Matisse was a genius at reinvention – an inspiration to all of us to try it at least once. The good news is that there’s lots of help out there. Here are four great places to start:

    Seth Godin, marketing guru, entrepreneur, and best-selling author of fourteen books that have been translated into more than thirty languages, has written, Why We Are All Artists. In his online conversation he describes how we are all “capable of making a difference, of being bold, and of changing more than we are willing to admit. We are capable of making art.”

    The Idea Champions share 50 Ways to Foster Innovation. This blog post is about developing a culture of sustainable innovation in organizations, but the same principles apply to individual lives, as well.

    From the Harvard Business Review Blog, check out,  How to Master a New Skill.

    And don’t miss Kerry Hannon’s terrific new book, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work that Keeps You Healthy and Happy, and Pays the Bills, which was named book-of-the-month in the Washington Post’sColor of Money Book Club“.

    Happy New Year and Happy New You!

     

  • The Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson’s Brilliant Cover Letter

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    In my last post I mentioned how it took Henri Matisse eight years of almost continual, major reworking to complete his painting, Bathers by a River, and today I want to point out how the same excruciating reworking is inherent in the creative writing process, as well.

    Good writing is a craft as well as an art. Job seekers need to learn how to best capture and articulate their unique attributes because employers, who are looking for the cream of the crop, need to be able to see who we are and what we are capable of doing for them.

    As visual artists learn from Matisse, writers can also learn from those who have mastered the challenge. Writing is hard work. Meaningful prose does not come trippingly off the tongue, and job seekers need to balance their skills, experience and passion to create a brilliant, attention-grabbing cover letter.

    Peggy Noonan’s illuminating Wall Street Journal article, A Cold Man’s Warm Words, about the vicissitudes Thomas Jefferson suffered whilst lead writer on the Declaration of Independence provide valuable lessons about the humility and statesmanship required in what was no doubt the most challenging writing assignment of his life.

    Ben Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson at work on the Declaration of Independence

    Noonan writes:

    “It was July 1, 2 ,3 and 4, 1776, in the State House in Philadelphia. America was being born. The Continental Congress was reviewing and editing the language of the proposed Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson, its primary author, was suffering the death of a thousand cuts.

    “The beginning of the Declaration had a calm stateliness that signaled, subtly, that something huge is happening: ‘When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separate.’ This gave a tone of moral modesty to an act, revolution, that is not a modest one. And it was an interesting modesty, expressing respect for the opinion of the world while assuming the whole world was watching.

    “The second paragraph will, literally, live forever in the history of man. It still catches the throat: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’

    “What followed was a list of grievances that made the case for separation from the mother country, and this part was fiery. Jefferson was a cold man who wrote with great feeling. He trained his eyes on the depredations of King George III: ‘He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns. . . . He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compete the work of death, desolation and tyranny . . .’

    “Members of the Congress read and reread, and the cutting commenced. Sometimes they cooled Jefferson down. He wrote that the king ‘suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these states.’ They made it simpler: ‘He has obstructed the Administration of Justice.’

    “For Thomas Jefferson it became a painful ordeal, as change after change was called for and approximately a quarter of what he had written was cut entirely. I quote from the historian David McCullough‘s “John Adams,” as I did last year at this time, because everything’s there. ‘Jefferson looked on in silence. Mr. McCullough notes that there is no record that he uttered a word in protest or in defense of what he’d written. Benjamin Franklin, sitting nearby, comforted him: Edits often reduce things to their essence, don’t fret.'” [Be sure to read all of Noonan’s article to see some of Jefferson’s most poignant words which were cut.]

    Noonan notes, “It hurt Thomas Jefferson to see these words removed from his great document. And we know something about how he viewed his life, his own essence and meaning, from the words he directed that would, a half-century after 1776, be cut onto his tombstone. The first word after his name is ‘Author.'”

    We writers, like Jefferson, writing for our lives if not our country’s, need to reach a point where we realize we have done the best we possibly can and let go. Our words, after all, are validated by our readers. King George III got the point and future employers will get ours, as well. That does not mean we will automatically get the job; remember how many years it took for the Colonial Army to get the job done – but in the end they did!

  • Creativity: Inspiration May Come Like a Bolt Out of the Blue But Execution May Take A Lifetime

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    Today’s artistic forensics – new digital imaging techniques, laser scanning, ultraviolet illumination and state-of-the-art computer software – are delivering fantastic insights about the creative process and how the artist works.

    Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society, New York

    High-Tech Matisse, the recent NY Times article by Carol Vogel, for example, describes how technology has revealed that Henri Matisse’s “Bathers by a River” went through a eight-year (1909-1917) evolutionary process as the artist revised the painting time and time again.

    Vogel notes, “Although art historians could always track the changes of that period by studying his [Matisse’s] paintings in progression, one by one, until recently they had no clear idea of exactly how those changes were developed: how much hands-on experimenting went into the new work and what formal processes of study, revision and rejection were involved. Now those mysteries have been largely solved, thanks to an extraordinary array of technologies deployed in putting together “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917,” an exhibition that opens next week [July 18, 2010] at the Museum of Modern Art. The show offers a rare opportunity to look beneath the surface of Matisse’s work to see a creative evolution that until now only his eyes had witnessed.”

    Matisse was already an international star when he returned to Paris from Morocco in the spring of 1913. At this time, “he began creating paintings that were simpler and more layered than the boldly colorful, sun-filled canvases that had been his signature. At the same time he started dipping his toe into Cubism, which was in full flower with younger artists like Juan Gris, Georges Braque and, of course, Pablo Picasso, whom Matisse began to see a lot during those years.”

    “While he admired Cubism for its inventiveness, the more instinctive Matisse was also suspicious of its intellectual emphasis. At the same time he also admired the work of Paul Cézanne — in particular his carefully constructed compositions — as Matisse began to reconsider his own working methods and fundamental ideas about making art.”

    By 1917, Matisse abandoned the Cubist approach and adopted a style closer to Impressionism. “He felt he’d done what he set out to do and thought it was crucial to keep changing,” said John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus at the Museum of Modern Art. “He didn’t want to become a prisoner of that style.”

    Matisse said, “Bathers by a River” was one of the most pivotal works in his career, and now we can see why. This visual eight-year timeline delineates the evolution of Matisse’s creative inspiration and execution in extraordinary ways.


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