John Mcewen com­ments on In­te­rior, Flow­ers and Para­keets

Country Life Every Week - - My Favourite Painting India Knight -

IN 1917, Matisse spent the winter in Nice for the first time. He would live there, part or most of the year, for the rest of his life. He soon paid his re­spects to Renoir at nearby Cagnes. Renoir was old, newly wid­owed and crip­pled by arthri­tis, but paint­ing as de­vot­edly as ever. Matisse was ner­vous. As a pi­o­neer of Fau­vism ( fauve mean­ing wild beast), he had over­turned every­thing Renoir held dear. An ac­com­pa­ny­ing friend wrote: ‘It was rather like Rubens in the role of am­bas­sador pre­sent­ing his cre­den­tials to some aged Pope.’ Matisse was deeply moved by the ex­pe­ri­ence and friend­ship blos­somed when he found Renoir a 17-year-old art stu­dent to model for him. On one visit, Renoir said that, how­ever lit­tle he had achieved, he had at least pro­duced some­thing that was ab­so­lutely his own and that he liked Matisse for the same rea­son.

In au­tumn 1921, Matisse strength­ened the Nice con­nec­tion by for­sak­ing ho­tels and rent­ing a third-floor flat at 1, place Charles Félix, within a stone’s throw of the sea in the old town. He leased it for most of the 1920s and, later, took a sec­ond flat for his wife and visi­tors. In ho­tels, he had to be con­tent with ex­ist­ing in­te­ri­ors—now, he could make his own. He filled the flat with flow­ers, mir­rors, screens and dec­o­ra­tive fab­rics, of­ten draped as hang­ings over empty picture frames. End­lessly trans­formed, it be­came his sig­na­ture sub­ject, the so-called ‘Nice Pe­riod’. It was a refuge, not least in 1924, made turbulent by the break-up of his son Pierre’s short­lived mar­riage. No doubt he was sus­tained by Renoir’s in­domitable ex­am­ple.

In­te­rior, Flow­ers and Para­keets, 1924, by Henri Matisse (1869–1954), 46in by 29in, The Bal­ti­more Mu­seum of Art, USA

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