Monday, 17 December 2012

Learning to look

Two glowing reviews - Roberta Smith in the New York Times and another on the Economist's Prospero blog (they don't seem to include authors?) - drew my attention to the current Matisse exhibition, Matisse: In search of true painting, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition is based on an almost classically simple premise: Matisse throughout his career made multiple versions of subjects, creating pairs or triples or series of works through which he evaluated and revised his painting. The show puts 50 paintings from five decades of Matisse's career into this context, showing how these often seemingly effortless images come from a long process of deeply cosnidered experimentation and adaption.

Smith describes the show as 'one of the most thrillingly instructive exhibitions about this painter, or painting in general, that you may ever see'. "Thrillingly instructive" - not two words you expect to see together, but ones that make me so curious. She continues
The textbook simplicity of this format is irresistible. The visual self-schooling particular to looking at art kicks in, and almost before you know it your eyes are off and running, darting back and forth, parsing differences in style, brushwork, color, detail and overall effect, the expression of emotion that Matisse said he was always after.
Smith praises the exhibition 'forthrightness', which illuminates the process but also lets the art sing. It sounds wonderful.

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