On August 5th 1946, two years after Paris was liberated from the Germans, a young American soldier named Jerome Seckler visited Henri Matisse. Seckler had a passion for modern art. He made it his mission to meet with, and interview, some of the leading French artists of the time: Matisse was on his list…The interview reveals Jerome to be keenly interested and articulate in the art of time, and Matisse to be a spirited foil to Seckler’s germane questioning. The transcript has been sitting neatly filed in a cardboard box for almost seventy years. Until now this interview has never been published.
Here’s one of my favorite Matisse quotes from the interview:
I think that art must not be a disagreeable thing. There is enough unhappiness in life to turn one towards the joy. One should keep the disagreeable, the unhappiness to himself. One can always find a pleasant thing. An unhappiness doesn’t remain. It makes experience. One doesn’t need to infect people with his annoyances. One should make a serene thing. One should make a stimulating art which leads the spirit of the spectator into a domain which puts him outside of his annoyances.
If you want a short cut to my favorites, and there are a lot of them, here are the links and a teaser to Matisse’s responses:
- Commitment: I am not at ease. (My favorite. Must read.)
- Peer Appreciation: Picasso was stunned into silence. “We sat there like stones,” Gilot later recalled. (Picasso and Gilot watching him make cut-outs)
- Soul: Those who will work with their soul, and the desire to express themselves will come out the best painters.
- Critics: It is the result that counts. When I am very much criticized by a painter, I’ll say to him, put your work beside mine and we will see.
- Talent: You can have all the strength, if you do not have the gifts you will not arrive…
- Passion: Why make me make different things. I get into communication with nature. Why look elsewhere?
- Art Appreciation: A man with money will appreciate a painting for the price but the man in the street will just like the painting because he will feel it is good even if he doesn’t know why.
- Art, like Music: All music is made with seven notes. With that, one makes all the relations. Painting is the same.
- Revolution: Myself also I live a continual revolution.
- Approval: A chef doesn’t have to always ask for approval and to ask people to taste the plates that he prepares.
- Desire: All the artists who began by being hungry and cold have made good painting.
- Passion / Love: One must suffer for what one loves.
It’s worth your time to read the entire 3000 word transcript here: Henri Matisse: The Lost Interview.
- See the full interview at the Design Observer Group. Henri Matisse: The Lost Interview
- Photograph: BBC News – Henri Mattisse cut-out art at Tate Museum