Tuesday, March 12, 2013

NYSS art lectures—Matisse: In search of true painting

{ Still Life with Purro 1, 1940, Matisse }
{ Still Life with Purro 2, 1904-05, Matisse }

This little 2013 plan is working! If for no other reason than I'm a perfectionist and since my list is out there, I feel compelled to check things off (even though I haven't shared an update recently, oops!).

Anyway, under "Discovery" I included an intention to get back into art history—a subject I loved so much I was on track to minor in it in college. One of my favorite things about it wasn't so much wandering around museums, but hearing someone who devoted their life to periods and movements and artistes speak about the crazy connections between people, art and history. So back in January I started Googling for lecture series in the city and found NYSS (New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture) and their free evening events.

I added the February Matisse and March Courbet events to my calendar, but by the time the date of the first event rolled around I was thisclose to going "eh, I'm too tired" after work and just ignore it, but, but! knowing I would have to fess up and share my progress with y'all I woman-ed up and took myself to the school on a Wednesday evening at 6:30PM for the first lecture (it also helped that I invited a friend—someone I know who is always up for anything, the exact opposite of me, to join and go for dinner afterward).

The little room was packed when we got there—lots of students and lots of older people (for whom we could tell this was their thing, especially given their extremely in-depth, slightly whackadoo questions afterward), but what I didn't realize was that the woman speaking on Matisse had actually curated a "live" exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was there to talk about it.

As soon as the lights dimmed and I snuggled into my chair I remembered why I loved these kinds of lectures so much. The dark room, the flashes of canvases from far away and close up with arrows pointing to obscure details, the aged photographs, the maps, the tentative hypotheses backed up by debatable proof (art is always open for interpretation), it was just fascinating!

This lecture specifically was really interesting because the whole premise was that Matisse wasn’t born an artistic genius, in the way that Michelangelo or Beethoven were considered prodigies. He worked hard at it, only becoming a painter in middle age and after teaching himself by copying masters. Even when he became recognized for his work, he still wasn’t satisfied, often repainting, re-evaluating and even re-doing his work in an entirely different style, while keeping the subject matter the same.

Meaning, this exhibit was about comparing multiple versions of the same subject matter and showing how this one was influenced by Gaugin, and that one by Seurat. And the name "in search of true painting" was about his obsession with the process of creation, pushing deeper, further to get at something more "real".

As a cranky perfectionist, I understand him completely and am so glad I went.


  1. wonderful work!!! once again, this is real nyc - the good part of being in nyc! love it!!

  2. Hmm, I thought I already commented on this but maybe not. Excellent working keeping up your NY resolution! Also, I have no idea how you have time to write all these posts when I don't even have time to keep up reading them ;)

    1. Let me tell you——it has been an ordeal at times (which explains why I haven't posted an update on them recently...I've let quite a few slide by. Oops!). ;)


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