Curator, Ann Temkin: This picture was made when Matisse was first married. He and his wife went to spend about six months in Corsica. Corsica is an island off Southern France in the Mediterranean and at that time, was a French province. It was the first time that he was in the Mediterranean.
Professor, Mehammed Mack: I think you see a sort of appreciation for the different qualities of sunlight that you would only notice if you traveled.
My name is Mehammed Mack. I am Associate Professor of French Studies at Smith College.
That contrast between the grayness of the north that haunts the city of Paris during winter and the really strong sunlight which is so crucial to the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Ann Temkin: The intense sunlight changed his life, it changed his work. He experienced a sense of, here's what my painting could become—all about color, all about imagination.
When you look at this, you think more of an Impressionist painting, in which there are almost no outlines and instead lines are just formed by areas of color. The olive trees that are at the top of the wall don't even have trunks. It's like the light has become so hot that the trees just become these sort of puffs.
Writer, Claire Messud: When I was young, everybody would say, “Oh, you have to find your voice,” and you think, “what the heck do they mean?” And then there comes some moment in your evolution where you realize you're not listening to your teachers, and you're not trying to copy other people, and you're just being yourself, and that is finding your voice. So this painting is interesting to me because you can see him beginning to find his voice.
Ann Temkin: For the rest of his life, Matisse spoke about those few months in Corsica as really being transformative.
Choosing to put a landscape from Corsica in The Red Studio is the one place where he put a picture that had particular meaning to him as an artist. And so he just propped it against that stack of frames that are sitting on the floor in the corner.