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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:36

Video transcript

[Music] we're on the fifth floor of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City looking at Anhui Matisse's large canvas the red studio there is a tradition of artists in their studio shown working the tradition goes back to the 17th century but this is interesting because Matisse is not physically represented in this room instead into our room functions almost like a self-portrait he may not be here but his surrogates are here these works of art these are not invented paintings these are actual works of art in fact the museum has the plate that's in the lower left on display in the center of the gallery but police is not being faithful to these works he's changing them he's transforming and he's creating themes and variations on his earlier work it's a difficult painting it is saturated in red it's not what we are expecting and yet I keep thinking to myself how much more interesting this painting is and if we were to approach a naturalistic image of an artist's studio it seems much more personal and much more philosophical virtually the entire canvas is covered with his deep red the only exceptions are his art the frames for his art light coming through the curtains that have been closed the face of the clock a cutting of mr. sheean leaves besides that the only things that are not red are the lines that define the form lines that define the architecture of the space and the furniture of the space there's no sense of the naturalistic light coming in through a window the way we might see in an earlier painting by Matisse or in an impressionist painting of a domestic interior is almost no highlight there's certainly no shadow everything has been simplified and is structured by only color and line this is very particular Matisse did not paint white on top of red instead he painted red up to the borders of the forms that he was defining so what we might take it first as white is actually paint underneath the and that has a particular name that's called a reserved line this has to do with the impact of Matisse looking at the earlier work of Cezanne and the breaking of the traditions of Renaissance painting in the early 20th century we think about oil paint as being a kind of layering of paint but here it's an intentional leaving absent of paint which is something that we also see in the work of Suzanne he seems to be consciously dismantling the architecture of linear perspective which is such a crucial part of the tradition of Western painting creating that illusion of space and artists since the Renaissance have used a sense of atmosphere and both of those are missing here he's given us the floor for the most part but the line that would form the corner of the ceiling is intentionally missing reminding us of the flatness of the canvas the canvas itself is indulging in this tension between the pictorial space and the physical two-dimensional surface of the canvas he's playing with it he flips back and forth like the reserve line teeming on top but then being the paint that's underneath because if we look closely we do have some orthogonal on that table on the left corner we have a bit of a sense of space and even the chair on the right has some orthogonals although they don't really work spatially but then against all of those vertical and horizontal lines we have these lovely curvilinear forms of the nasturtiums and of that chair other curvilinear forms include the figures in the paintings themselves the nude figure on the left with that swirling drapery around her or the curving backs of the figures in the upper right so one feels a sense of opposition's here the piece is not interested in destroying space entirely but he is interested in dismantling enough of it to make the viewer conscious of the choices that he's making what really strikes me there are those drawing tools on the lower left because they're so close to us and they're tipped upward and two of them are out almost inviting us to paint and draw our this painting is not simply a rendering of the artists studio and it's clearly more than it's self portrait defined through an artist space and artists work this is a painting that functions as a discussion of what it means to create a canvas after hundreds of years of Renaissance illusionism in the early 20th century when artists like Picasso like Cezanne have begun to force us to rethink the conventions of the past and to invent an entirely new visual vocabulary [Music]