Art Free
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

It’s a commercial gallery show, scheduled to coincide with the Royal Academy’s blockbuster ‘Matisse in the Studio’ exhibition, opening in August. Is anyone else wondering if this is essentially a high-end gift shop for wealthy RA visitors buzzing on a Matisse high?

It is what it is, and Matisse is still Matisse: the twentieth-century maestro who built a dazzling, sensual world of lavish interiors, opulent fabrics, lush houseplants, Oriental garments and reclining nudes. But, like all geniuses, he had off days, and the paintings on display here aren’t among his best. ‘L’artiste et le modèle nu’, a self-portrait of sorts where he appears painting a woman in his studio, feels wispy and indecisive.

This gives his drawings and prints the limelight, and in many ways they’re way more thrilling: here, you bear witness to a stupendously gifted draughtsman capturing his subjects – the profile of a woman, a vase of flowers – with swift, gorgeous economy. Gorgeousness is perhaps half the problem with Matisse. It’s his unswerving devotion to beauty, and interest in little else, that’s always tended to land him in second place against his lifelong frenemy, the grittier, more political Picasso. Still, as much as he flirted with frivolity, we shouldn’t forget that once upon a time, Matisse’s pictures looked far less lovely: garish, expressionist and wild. It’s because of, not despite, these jittery, gloom-laden times of ours, that I have a feeling we’re all in need of a soothing dose of beauty. See you at the RA this summer.


By: Matt Breen


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