Henri Matisse (1869-1954) Studio, Quai Saint-Michel, 1916. Oil on canvas, 58 ¼ x 46 inches, Unsigned, Acquired 1940, The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
When Studio Quai St. Michel by Henri Matisse was first introduced, art collector Duncan Phillips didn’t like Matisse’s work. He thought that the post-impressionism patterns were “crude and insanely depraved.” The original unknown owner said it was the most difficult painting to live with. However Phillips changed his mind over a decade later in 1927, when he realized that this was the route that art was going towards. He began to appreciate Matisse’s abstract style.
One of the main reasons I love this painting is because of its simple style; however, there are a few issues that also make me dislike Studio Quai St. Michel. The painting takes a turn when comparing the city through the window and the woman on the bed. Many critics notice the different geometric shapes in the painting. They feel that there is juxtaposition with the clean-cut lines of the apartment and city against the woman’s curve. While I still haven’t understood out why they are bothered by that, I noticed a similarity to Three Women by Fernand Leger. Both paintings appear flat and simple. The bodies in Three Women appear to be assembled from robotic parts. This shows us (but mainly the critics) that every body is curved, even the inhuman ones.
Despite trying to fight the natural shape of women, the apartment is also struggling. I’m not an architect but the window and the molding on the ceiling are at completely different angles. Also, the table on the right is balancing on just two legs. The more I look at this painting, the more I can understand why many people felt uncomfortable looking at it and why the original owner felt it was a difficult painting to live with.
How long can you look at this painting?
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- Ev L