Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1912 (Heft 39)

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(written after having seen the last exhibition of WORKS BY MATISSE IN
WHAT will Matisse mean to the coming generation ? Rather a strange
question to ask when an artist is still exposed to the critical analysis
and jeering doubt of his own generation. Yet in this instance it is
tangible. Esthetically, stripped as it were of all notes of novelty, momentary
influences and contentions, the essence of his work—not unlike his “Serf”—
stands forth, stridulously and strenuously, as an embodiment of Strength. This
is the one impression left on the mind. It is the intrinsic note that supersedes
the fascination of all his other manifold gifts. This influence will remain.
As an innovator of form he is apt to be of less importance. Whenever a
method of treatment becomes familiar, and easy to ply even by a beginner,
the time of a new birth of imagination is inevitable. The result is a reaction.
The art of our days is as vacillating in its aim and effect as the annual spring
sales of millinery. There is no steadiness and solidity in the present trend of
art thought. One ideal follows closely upon another. There are a dozen
schools running parallel as in a race of thoroughbreds. Besides there are other
men engaged in the very same problems. Every artist with original aspirations
has forerunners, disciples and soulless imitators. Matisse has actual com-
petitors. He may be made the patriarch of the movement; or this doubtful
distinction will be eventually thrust upon somebody else. The centrifugal
force of this movement is still elusive and shifting. The process of corrosion
to which all intellectual products are subject has not yet set in.
Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso endeavor to give a new understructure to
color. Their contribution to color is progressive, evolutionary. It is an ex-
pansion of impressionism. Their revolt against academic form and surface
records (no matter whether of the classic or realistic school, it is idealization
anyhow) is bolder, more far reaching, but it would take an augural mind
indeed to prognosticate whether they have found the point of Archimedes in
this respect or not. It is very much like discovering the North pole. One has
to believe in hearsay.
Form and color are the only means to suggest or reproduce an illusion of
the rotundity of objects in space. Form is either an elaboration or simplifi-
cation of line and plane facts. With Matisse, despite all exaggeration and
inconsistency, satire, anatomical and geometrical emphasis, it is simplification.
But it is not a new form factor. It is rather a spiral return from a more
scientific age to the primitive conceptions of an antique world, where instinct
reigned supreme. The childlike attitude is impossible to the eclectic mind.
Little round men, who brag incessantly about their discoveries, can not in the
appearance of things feel the same innocent delight as a child in the prettiness
of a world of new toys.
Matisse is at present the recipient of most rigorous denunciation. Art
journalism apparently has concentrated its magnifying glass upon his technical
eccentricities, and the public is at loss as to an accurate estimate of the painter’s

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