Monday, 31 October 2011

Henri Matisse and the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence...

To quote: "The studied simplicity, aiming "to express the idea of immensity, over a very limited surface", gives a response to religious feeling and brings about "the lightening of the spirit" which Matisse wanted to prompt in visitors to the chapel." 

I chose to write about this piece of architecture by Henri Matisse because I think that it shows Modernism in its most simplistic and beautiful form. I have a lot more to learn about Modernism as a movement and, like everyone, I have a lot more to learn about Art. But I feel that this Chapel designed by Matisse (c. 1941) is a perfect example of the colours and simple shapes that artists in the Modern movement dared to experiment with. The Chapel is like a blank canvas. Clean and white so that when the Sun shines through the bright, multi-coloured shapes of the stained glass windows, the same colours are reflected onto the floor and the wall tiles that depict a simple, yet representative image of Mary cradling baby Jesus. This rather child-like drawing reminds me of the innocence in the hope that is brought by religion daily.  

A Chapel, to me, is a place that should be quiet, serene, uncluttered and somewhere that you can relax and gather your thoughts. A place where you cannot be disturbed. I can imagine, that sat in this place, one is met with the feeling of awe similar to that which you would have sat in the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Rome or perhaps St. Paul's Cathedral in London. I am not religious, but I do believe in Art and the power of Art. Although Modernism was supposed to defy and frustrate the "normal" art processes (e.g vast, realistic paintings and life-like sculptures that were created to represent the visual obvious) I believe that it developed art in a way which makes/forces the viewer to think and interpret in their own, personal way. Although only a small room, I can imagine that this has an immense effect on whoever enters it's walls.

After researching Modernism further, I found this quote from Clement Greenberg which had been used in an essay written by John O'brian in 1988, titled 'Greenberg's Matisse and the Problem of Avante-Garde Hedonism'.  
"Now the pastoral, in modern painting and elsewhere, depends on two interdependent attitudes: the first, a dissatisfaction with the moods prevailing in society's centers of activity; the second, a conviction of the stability of society in one's own time." [extract from a passage in 'The Nation' by Clement Greenberg, Jan. 1946, in CG, 2, pp.51-52]
After reading more of O'brian's essay, it is suggested that this article by Greenberg is directly aimed towards the art of Matisse although he is not named at any point. What I understand from the quote is that Modernism was and still is very critical of Art and the world around us. The 'pastoral' is supposed to be fresh, natural etc. although I feel that when I look at the work of Matisse and other Modernist painters, they almost have an industrial and machenical feel to them in terms of production. I feel that Greenberg is also saying that through Modernism, we are seeing a glimpse into the effects of the growth and changes of society (e.g. the development of the factory and mass production) during the Modernist years. Gone are the lush, life-like paintings of John Constable and enter the liner, shapely and vibrant depictions of the Modernist era.
I feel that this links to Matisse's Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence because at the time of its design and contruction, the world was at war. The fact that Matisse was concentrated on the design process of a Chapel (a place for peace, rest and communion) shows for me a desire for simplicity and serenity in a society that was destrucitve and full of tension.

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