PRINT September 1972

Matisse Drawings and Sculpture

. . . when the issue is one of knowing something, the other senses, by a certain resemblance, take to themselves the function of seeing—a function in which the eyes have priority.

Confessions of St. Augustine


MATISSE’S OFTEN QUOTED REMARK that he wanted his art to be “like a mental soother, something like a good armchair in which to rest from physical fatigue”1 is really the least appropriate characterization of one’s reaction to his work. Few artists have done more to discredit the idea o f esthetic perception as something passive and compliant than Matisse—for all his hedonism and easily grasped attractiveness. The degree to which his art insists on a demanding apperceptive reaction is itself almost a guideline to its quality. And yet, the quotation from “Notes of a Painter” is a reminder that for Matisse the striving after the harmonious placed a corresponding weight on what he

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