My grandparents were both artists. My grandmother taught me how to draw; my grandfather how to paint: and they both appreciated Henri Matisse. (Don't know this artist? Here is a lovely Henri Matisse website to go through his major works.) Back in High School, MOMA had an exhibit of Matisse’s prints that left an impression on all of us who went. And in college, whilst living overseas, I made a special pilgrimage to Vence, France to see the chapel. So, I was especially excited to be invited to a press preview of the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs soon-to-open blockbuster show at the Museum of Modern Art.
There is ton of discussion that you can look up about this period in Matisse’s artistic life, the last 15 years or so, but for the purposes and mission of this blog I want to focus on this aspect: this collection, this incredibly fertile period of Henri Matisse’s artistic life was created whilst he was wheelchair bound, even bed-ridden.
Look at the work.
Henri Matisse let nothing stop him or define him from his life’s mission and purpose – not even being bedridden with illness and disease. He was compelled to do what he must: create art. Any way he could. This was not a desperate, flailing attempt to recapture an artistic life; he recreated himself and his art and elevated a form he designed:
“The cut out was not an renunciation of painting and sculpture: he called it 'painting with scissors.' Matisse said, "Only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.”
For me, for us perhaps, this is the great lesson of Henri Matisse and this period of his artistic life, the lesson of the cut-outs to anyone who feels held back, limited, restricted, by food allergies or any other challenge:
1. There is always a way.
2. Limits or barriers may be just the challenge you need to find a new path.
3. Let nothing stop you from finding and enacting the grace and beauty of your life.
Thank you, MOMA for this stunning exhibit!
It opens October 12, 2014 and runs through February 8, 2015. If you are visiting New York City this season make the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibit of your stops. Pssst: Admission is free on Friday nights