"I have worked all my life before the same objects... The object is an actor.
A good actor can have a part in ten different plays;
an object can play a role in ten different pictures"
- Henri Matisse, 1951 -
The current exhibition at the Royal Academy, Matisse in the Studio, is a fascinating display of thirty five objects collected by Matisse, alongside sixty five works of art which include the objects in their imagery. The items, many of which were flea market finds, include a chocolate pot, which he received as a wedding gift, and appeared in a number of his paintings over a period of 40 years.
Matisse would draw inspiration from this eclectic collection of memorabilia, and rearrange them in different settings and against different backdrops, layering pattern, textiles and colour in his work, and reusing them time and again.
“My life is between the walls of my studio”
He collected items purely for their aesthetic appeal, they weren’t just rare or expensive items. Many, like the chocolate pot, were everyday homewares which he used on a daily basis and formed part of his home life as well as decorative items, such as vases and fruit bowls. His collection also included African masks, North African textiles, and Chinese porcelain, and he adorned his studio in Nice with them.
This Andalusian green vase features in a number of his paintings and what is remarkable is how in different paintings he imbued the same item with quirky characteristics that take on a human touch.
Alongside Delft blue and white pottery from Holland he also had a collection of willow pattern ceramics from China, and both featured many times in different paintings.
A Moroccan screen and table provided further influence to Matisse's paintings.
His collection of figures, including a second century Roman torso, would influence the simple flowing lines of many of his own paintings of the female form. While a lacquered Chinese calligraphy panel, which he hung above his bed became the inspiration for many of his cut-outs.
"A composition of objects which do not touch –
but nonetheless participate in the same intimacy”
We all know the familiarity of a cherished item, and seeing this very personal collection of ephemera brought home to us how the items we collect around us, although not transferred into brilliant artworks like Matisse, never the less, become the objects which define our life style. They can express our interests, personal history and are a potent marker our own individuality.
We have put together a selection of rugs, fabrics, homewares and accessories inspired by Matisse’s interest in the exotic, and his love of layering and colour
Screen, lamp and table by Maroque
Fabrics by Orla Kiely, vases by John Lewis
Crockery, linen and cushions by Anthropologie
Homewares by Zara Home
Matisse in the Studio is on now at the Royal Academy of Arts until 12 November 2017