Matisse has always been one of my favorite painters. Probably because he was so clearly a lover of color and pattern…and nowhere was this love more obvious than in his generous use of textile patterns in his work. Note, for example, the fabulous tablecloth in “The Red Room (Harmony in Red)” and the variety of upholstery fabric that appears in “Seville Still Life.”
So when I came across an archived article in the Times about an exhibit entitled “Matisse: The Fabric of Dreams—His Art and His Textiles,” it was with a combination of excitement and dismay. The best exhibit I never saw was held at the Met several years ago (June 23, 2005). It turns out that Matisse grew up in an industrial town known for textile production and had relatives in the textile business. He was also an avid collector of textiles for most of his life (that should come as no surprise when you think about it for a second…but who knew?) When Matisse died, his family packed up many of the textiles, some of which had been used as inspiration for his paintings. The exhibit that I never saw paired paintings with the actual textiles that inspired Matisse. How cool is that?
For instance, the following textile was the actual bit of cloth he was looking at when he painted “Still Life with a Blue Tablecloth” in 1909.
And the following robe was the actual robe worn by the model when he painted “Purple Robe and Anemones”
If you’re interested in learning more about Matisse’s use of textiles you might want to hunt down the book that accompanied the exhibition, “Matisse:His Art and His Textiles”; and if that’s not enough, check out Hillary Spurling’s prize winning two- volume biography of Matisse: “The Unknown Matisse” and “Matisse the Master.”