Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

The Matisse ‘armchair quote’ is back

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Roberta Smith’s review of this Matisse show at MoMA opens with a quick skewering of one of the most tired, most misunderstood quotes in art history:

The Museum of Modern Art’s extraordinary “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917” is not your garden-variety Matisse exhibition. It contains few signs of the artist who said a painting should be the equivalent of a soothing armchair. By the end of this show you may wonder if that Matisse ever really existed, despite his much-quoted, overinterpreted words to that effect.

Smith leaves the quote alone after that. Here’s my deconstruction of why Matisse’s words are usually misread.

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  1. Tyler’s “deconstruction” considers the quote about the armchair in the context of the preceding paragraph in “Notes of a Painter.” So does this essay by Hilton Kramer.

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