Henri Matisse. The Red Studio. Issy-les-Moulineaux, fall 1911

Henri Matisse

The Red Studio

Issy-les-Moulineaux, fall 1911

Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
71 1/4" x 7' 2 1/4" (181 x 219.1 cm)
Credit
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
Object number
8.1949
Copyright
© 2017 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Department
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view on Floor 5, in a Collection Gallery, with 12 other works online.
Henri Matisse has 313 works online.
There are 2,321 paintings online.

"Where I got the color red—to be sure, I just don't know," Matisse once remarked. "I find that all these things . . . only become what they are to me when I see them together with the color red." This painting features a small retrospective of Matisse's recent painting, sculpture, and ceramics, displayed in his studio. The artworks appear in color and in detail, while the room's architecture and furnishings are indicated only by negative gaps in the red surface. The composition's central axis is a grandfather clock without hands—it is as if, in the oasis of the artist's studio, time were suspended.

Gallery label from 2006

"Modern art," said Matisse, "spreads joy around it by its color, which calms us." In this radiant painting he saturates a room—his own studio—with red. Art and decorative objects are painted solidly, but furniture and architecture are linear diagrams, silhouetted by "gaps" in the red surface. These gaps reveal earlier layers of yellow and blue paint beneath the red; Matisse changed the colors until they felt right to him. (The studio was actually white.)

The studio is an important place for any artist, and this one Matisse had built for himself, encouraged by new patronage in 1909. He shows in it a carefully arranged exhibition of his own works. Angled lines suggest depth, and the blue-green light of the window intensifies the sense of interior space, but the expanse of red flattens the image. Matisse heightens this effect by, for example, omitting the vertical line of the corner of the room.

The entire composition is clustered around the enigmatic axis of the grandfather clock, a flat rectangle whose face has no hands. Time is suspended in this magical space. On the foreground table, an open box of crayons, perhaps a symbolic stand-in for the artist, invites us into the room. But the studio itself, defined by ethereal lines and subtle spatial discontinuities, remains Matisse's private universe.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art , MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 77

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
The artist, 1911-1926
David Tennant, London. Purchased from the artist, 1926 – [1942]. (On loan to the Gargoyle Club, London, until 1941; then on consignment at the Redfern Gallery, London)
Georges Keller (Bignou Gallery), New York. [Acquired from Tennant through the Redfern Gallery,] 1942 – 1949
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Keller through Bignou Gallery, New York, in January 1949

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