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Matisse the Representational Artist

“I shall be guided by a sentence on the first page of your letter. You write: ‘Panorama and traces, flâneur

and arcades, modernism and the unchanging, without a theoretical interpretation—is that a material which

can patiently await decipherment?’ The understandable impatience with which you searched the manuscript

for a definite signalement [characterization] has, in my opinion, led you astray from it in some important respects . . . ”


Letter from Walter Benjamin to Theodor Adorno1

WATTEAU, DELACROIX, CÉZANNE, MATISSE: four names which stand for—along with much that does not unite them—the development of a particular use of color. For the first and last of this quartet that use of color becomes grand and decorative through a delight in the frivolous, if not the trivial, as it does too in some of the works of Delacroix, while in Cézanne its role is, of course, more sober.

Decorative art is

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