* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
I am astonished by the accuracy with which Matisse remembers the most trifling facts; he describes a room that he went into forty years ago and gives you the measurements, where every piece of furniture stood, how the light fell. He is a man of astounding precision and has little time for anything that he has not confirmed for himself. In art matters, he is not the sort to go looking for a profile fortuitously created by cracks in the wall. Elie Faure writes that Matisse is perhaps the only one of his contemporaries (in particular Marquet and Bonnard) to know exactly where he comes from and the only one who never allows it to show “because his inveterate, invincible, vigilant willpower is always focused on being himself and nothing but.”
Matisse neglects nothing. He seems to know as much about the art market as about painting.
So many stratagems to sell a painting, from intimidating the purchaser to seeming to avoid him: Vollard used them all and used them successfully. Not least the lies that he told to reassure the client. “It works like this,” says Matisse: “To make a sale, you invent lies that have somehow disappeared into thin air by the time the deal is done.”
We talk of the difficulties faced by dealers hoping to gain access to Renoir in his Cagnes residence. Renoir didn’t like having people talk to him about selling his work,” says Matisse: “It bored him. About the only one who got a foot in the door was Paul Guillaume; he dressed up as a young worker with a floppy necktie: “You see, I’m a local. I’ve always loved your painting. I’ve just inherited a little money; I’d like to buy something.”
Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview, Henri Matisse with Pierre Courthion, edited by Serge Guilbaut, translated by Chris Miller
Comments are welcome!
A: Arguably, life in New York provides an artist with direct access to some of the best international art of the past, the present, and probably the future. It is possible to see more art here – both good and bad – than in any other American city.
Just pick up any local magazine and scan the art listings! Our problem is never that there isn’t anything interesting to see or do. It’s “how do we zero in on the most significant local cultural activities, ones that might contribute to making us better artists?”
Certainly a visual artist’s work is consciously and unconsciously influenced not only by what she sees in museums and galleries, but by walking around the city. That’s partly why I am an inveterate walker. I never know what amazing things I am going to see when I leave my apartment.
Although living in New York City is a rich and heady mix for anyone, it is more so for sensitive artists. Artists are virtual sponges, soaking up experiences, processing them, and mysteriously expressing them in our work.
New York lets an artist ponder excellence as we see and experience firsthand what is possible. The best of the best manages to make its way here.
Undoubtedly, my own work is richer for having spent the last eighteen years in this fascinating, wild, and crazy city. For a visual artist New York is an infinitely fascinating place to live.
Comments are welcome!