ART: Highlights From A Never-Before-Published Interview With Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse is one of my all-time favourite artists.

Woman with a Hat.
Woman with a Hat, Henri Matisse

His romantic impressionist paintings leave me feeling like I want to walk right into them.  They make you want to dance naked holding hands in a circle, lie in a Garden of Eden and wear a fancy hat way too large for your face.


In August of 1946, after the end of World War II, an art-obsessed American soldier named Jerome Seckler interviewed legendary French painter Henri Matisse. At the time, Matisse had been suffering from cancer for several years and was at work on his collaged cut-outs—specifically, large-scale works that would become Oceania, The Sky and Oceania, The Sea—which are now on view at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In their extensive dialogue, Matisse discussed everything from the value of being a “starving artist” (“It is evident that in order to make good artists it is necessary that they not eat too well”) to the nitty-gritty of his creative process. The interview’s roughly 3,000-word transcript sat unpublished in a cardboard box for 70 years.

This year, Jerome Seckler’s son, Donald Seckler, unearthed the lost interview, which Design Observer has now published for the first time, in three installments.

In places, the interview turns into a heated debate—Seckler’s questions are challenging and provocative, and you can hear the ever-opinionated Matisse get a bit riled up. The artist’s comments range from the philosophical (“It is necessary that life be hard in order to form one’s character”) to the drily funny (“In America there are not enough bad boys”) to the self-reflective (“Do you think that I am neurotic? Is it seen in my paintings?”). Below are some highlights.

In part one of the interview, Seckler asks Matisse about the importance of subject in painting. “A book would be necessary to answer [this question],” Matisse replies. “The question is complex, very complex.” But he offers some opinions in this excerpt:

Henri Matisse: I think that art must not be a disagreeable thing. There is enough unhappiness in life to turn one towards the joy. One should keep the disagreeable, the unhappiness to himself. One can always find a pleasant thing. An unhappiness doesn’t remain. It makes experience. One doesn’t need to infect people with his annoyances. One should make a serene thing. One should make a stimulating art which leads the spirit of the spectator into a domain which puts him outside of his annoyances.

In part two of the interview, Matisse defends the starving artist, arguing that struggle builds a painter’s character:

Jerome Seckler: If the artist plays such an important role in society, don’t you think that a government subsidy should be paid the painter just like it pays any other government worker? He wouldn’t have to worry about where his next piece of bread was coming from. He could live a normal family life like any other person. He wouldn’t be at the mercy of a dealer. He should really be free to paint.

Henri Matisse: I am against ease. If one leaves the possibilities of getting a pension from the government for painting, to all the people who want to paint, all the Sunday painters will seize a brush. That is impossible. It is necessary that there be a straining. While giving to people who want to paint the facilities of doing it, it is necessary to put up a very strong barrier to prevent the invasion of the bad painter. Each time that a student who devotes himself to painting arrives at school for the first time, he should be given a volley of blows by a stick and after to lead him back to his home and he will see if he wants to begin again. If there was a test like that there would be a great many who would not return.

It is necessary that life be hard in order to form one’s character. That makes muscles. Art is a thing of exception. A great many people think today that they are artists because they see beautiful sunsets, or flowers. Today with the degree of civilization to which we have reached, everybody is sensitive to art, but that doesn’t mean that they are capable of making all that.

In this excerpt from part three, Matisse disses young copycat painters and discusses his painting process.

JS: When we look around at the young contemporary painters we see the tremendous influence of your painting. You have certainly helped change the direction of painting especially by your color.

HM: It is not my fault. I didn’t do it on purpose.

JS: Do you use color scientifically? What is your theory of color, especially as regards your conception of perspective?

HM: No, I don’t use color scientifically. And I have no theory of color. I haven’t any theory, even of drawing. That comes only from what I know what to look forward to. I work while waiting what will come. When I began painting, I copied the paintings in the Louvre and I finished by clarifying all that I thought and to see that color is a very beautiful thing. Why mix up the colors. Why trouble with all that. Why not utilize these colors as they are naturally. I searched for my combinations with combinations of colors which do not destroy themselves. In my [spirit], perspective is made in my head and not on the paper. That depends on you and the ideas you have. The most simple things are the most difficult.

The interview is well worth a read in its entirety—head to Design Observer for parts onetwo, and three of the extensive talk.

The true work of ART is but a shadow of the divine perfection – Michelangelo.

Style: Artful cutting-edge


To compliment the new “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, which opened October 12th, here are some Fall/Winter 2014 looks that evoke some of the artist’s most famous works.RMN108831NUThe masterful combination of contrast, line and color that Matisse was able to create with scissors is no doubt something that fashion designers today strive for as they cut their garments.matisse2

Perhaps these images will inspire you so much that you’ll want to go at your clothes with a pair of scissors…matisse1“Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,” is on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City October 12, 2014 through February 8,2015 

Maybe a scarf or t-shirt but not the whole shebang for me.  How about you?


Art/Culture/Design – the Cutting Edge of Matisse

matisse7Things you might not know about one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century:


Initially trained as a lawyer, Matisse developed an interest in art only at age twenty-one.

Along with those of Pablo Picasso, his stylistic innovations fundamentally altered the course of modern art and affected the art of several generations of younger painters.

The Fall of Icarus, 1943
The Fall of Icarus, 1943

In the summer of 1904, while visiting his artist friend Paul Signac at Saint-Tropez, a small fishing village in Provence, Matisse discovered the bright light of southern France, which contributed to a change to a much brighter palette.

Matisse’s career can be divided into several periods that changed stylistically, but his underlying aim always remained the same: to discover “the essential character of things” and to produce an art “of balance, purity, and serenity,” as he himself put it in his “Notes of a Painter” in 1908.

The Dessert: Harmony in Red
The Dessert: Harmony in Red

In the autumn of 1917, Matisse traveled to Nice in the south of France, and eventually settled there for the rest of his life.  No wonder – it’s so nice in Nice.

In the late 1940’s, sufffering from ill health, Matisse retired his paintbrush.  A spirit as creative as his, however, was not to be restrained.

The Snail
The Snail

Until his death in 1954, the trailblazing colorist snipped and tore gouache-coated paper into graphic shapes that he assembled into vibrant compositions.

Debuting at London’s Tate Modern this spring, the exhibition “Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs” features some 120 of these works, from figurative pieces – botanical tableaux, nudes – to playful abstracts such as The Snail (shown), a nine-foot square 1953 masterpiece that is as striking today as ever.matisse5 - CopyApril 17 – September 7;





My Art board on Pinterest

Souces: & Architectural Digest

Culture/ART – Therapy for the Soul

A home without ART is just an empty space

Joseph Kyle - Radiance #1, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 72 inches
Joseph Kyle – Radiance #1, 2002, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 72 inches

“There is a point where beauty meets truth,

Where wisdom meets delight,

Where heaven meets earth,

It is to this vision of the sublime

That my painting aspires.” –  Joseph Kyle


What is art for?  We’re discovering that Art can act like therapy for the soul.  This makes perfect sense to me.  Different paintings evoke different feelings in each individual & have the ability to move you the same way that hearing a certain song makes you feel.  And, as everything tastes better with the right wine, everything looks better with the right ART.

The American Art Therapy Association describes art therapy as “a mental health profession” that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages. It is based on the belief that the creative process involved in artistic self-expression helps people to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behaviour, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight.” Now there’s a new book on the subject, appropriately entitled “Art as Therapy.”

artastherapyArt as Therapy is packed with 150 examples of outstanding art, architecture and design, while chapters on Love, Nature, Money and Politics show how art can help with many common difficulties, from forging good relationships, finding happiness, to coming to terms with mortality.  This book seeks to help us develop a deeper understanding of art and of ourselves in equal measure, providing fascinating reading for those who are familiar with art as well as those who are new to the subject.         About:                  

    Art as Therapy at Home

Written by Alain de Botton (author and founder of The School of Life) and John Armstrong (philosopher & art theorist), showing us how to look at and understand art in a completely novel way. In 2014, they will be guest curating both at the Art Gallery of Ontario and at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum according to this new framework. And below, Alain shows us how, in an ideal world, he might curate the walls of a home. Fascinating stuff that makes us re-think how we might approach hanging art in our own surroundings.

Why does it matter what’s on the walls of our homes? Our sensitivity to our surroundings can be traced back to a troubling feature of human psychology: to the way we harbor within us many different selves, not all of which feel equally like ‘us’, so much so that in certain moods, we can complain of having come adrift from what we judge to be our true selves – in part, because the walls look wrong

Unfortunately, the self we miss at such moments, the elusively authentic, creative and spontaneous side of our character, is not ours to summon at will. Our access to it is, to a humbling extent, determined by the places we happen to be in, by the color of the bricks, the height of the ceilings and the art on the wall. In a house strangled by three motorways, or with drab wallpaper or in a wasteland of rundown tower blocks, our optimism and sense of purpose are liable to drain away, like water from a punctured container. We may start to forget that we ever had ambitions or reasons to feel spirited and hopeful.

We depend on the art in our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need – but are at constant risk of forgetting we need – within.  Art can help us in many ways; identified below are a few descriptions & suggestions of where one might hang them.”

Hope in the Kitchen

Henri Matisse, Dance (II), 1909; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg
Henri Matisse, Dance (II), 1909; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

“Matisse shows us an ideal image of women dancing in solidarity and joy. The French painter was not in denial of the troubles of this planet. But he wished to encourage us in an attitude of optimism, which he knew it can be hard for us to nurture and hold on to.

We should be able to enjoy an ideal image without regarding it as a false picture of how things usually are. A beautiful, though partial, vision can be all the more precious to us because we are so aware of how rarely life goes as we would like it to. We should be able to enjoy Matisse’s dancers without fearing that we are thereby colluding with a subterfuge played on a gullible public. The ideal it stands for is genuinely noble.

If the world were a kinder place than it is, perhaps we would be less impressed by, and in need of, pretty works of art. One of the strangest features of experiencing art is its power, occasionally, to move us to tears, not when we are presented with a harrowing or terrifying image, but when we see a work of particular grace and loveliness which can be, for a moment, heartbreaking. Matisse’s dancers might do this to us. What is happening to us at these special times of intense responsiveness to beauty? We are recognizing an ideal to which we are deeply attached, but from which we are too often alienated. The work of art helps us to see how much is missing and how deeply we would like things to be nicer than they are.

Rebalancing in the Dining Room

Hiroshi Sugimoto, North Atlantic Ocean, Cliffs of Moher, 1989; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York picture © Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy Pace Gallery
Hiroshi Sugimoto, North Atlantic Ocean, Cliffs of Moher, 1989; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York picture © Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy Pace Gallery.

“In Sugimoto’s photograph of the North Atlantic, we are in an undefined still vastness made up of only sea and sky.  A tranquil state of mind is supremely valuable in connection with many of the lesser troubles of life. Our capacity to get infuriated (and hence, usually, make matters worse by flying off the handle) is often driven by a refusal to accept how things are. Another person simply isn’t very interested in what we think; the world is not going to re-organize itself in sensible ways; the traffic just will be maddeningly slow, the train over-crowded. At times, we should know how to close down our hopes and give ourselves over to the contemplation of all that we will never be able to alter, here symbolized by the even, pure tones of an eternal horizon.  Sugimoto hasn’t just photographed the sea. He has provided us with a work that captures an attitude of mind to be summoned up at times of trial.”


Collectible Art by an original – Canadian Artist Joseph Kyle (1923-2005)

Delve within yourself to feel something that is incapable of expression in any but purely visual terms.  These paintings awaken your spirit.  It is to experience all without limits, it is to be infinite.  It is beyond categories.

Epiphany #5, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 48 inches.
Epiphany #5, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 48 inches.

Kyle’s background in contemporary classical music composition was a key inspiration to how he approached painting.  His ideas came from inside and not from an external reference. The composer must invent his form – he does not have a tree or a figure to copy, this form is drawn and realized from within.

Coherence in form, structure, shape, idea, colour and movement – each having a clear intentional relationship to the other.  Some might have categorized his work as geometric colour-field abstraction but Kyle rejected this term, preferring instead to using the word “Synoptics” – a description he originated and felt best represented his work.  Unique in concept, Syn-optics refers to “seeing as a whole.”  It is the ability to synthesize shape and colour on an equal footing and not as one reflecting or enhancing another. Kyle’s work forces the viewer to perceive an entire painting as an interactive whole rather than an assembly of individual compositional devices.  Symmetry, in Kyle’s hands, is not a compositional device.  It is a primal act whereby the chaos of the blank canvas is brought to order and activated.  The result is veil-like and ethereal.  Powerful.  The spiritual connotations of transparency are manifold. It evokes transcendence, purity, perfection of soul.

Synoptica #19, acrylic on canvas, 2002, 72 x 60 inches.

 The Canadian Cultural Review Board designated Joseph Kyle’s paintings as having “outstanding significance and national importance.” Kyle’s work has been collected for a number of important private and corporate collections throughout Canada. He is represented exclusively by Vancouver based Elan Fine Art Ltd  604.568.5709

Art Therapy – taken from goop magazine #12

Joseph Kyle – taken from a 22 page article written by Debra Usher for Arabella Magazine (Canadian Art, Architecture & Design).

Book Review: ‘When I read through Art as Therapy, paintings that I had long admired suddenly became new when seen through the filter of self-awareness and exploration. Really, a gem of a book.’  Gwyneth Paltrow,

Side note: Doctors noted that individuals suffering from mental illness often expressed themselves in drawings and other artworks, which led many to explore the use of art as a healing strategy.

What about you?  How do these make you feel?