In 1906 Henri Matisse painted “Young Sailor I,” a roughly shaded, almost abstract interpretation of an eighteen-year-old fisherman in his neighborhood. The young man is shown sitting with his arm propping up his head, his features outlined in dark black lines, and the same green of his pants creeping up to his cheek indicating shadow. Matisse lived with this portrait he’d created for almost a year before it inspired a reinterpretation that became “Young Sailor II,” one of his most iconic works. It’s clearly the same man, his hands arranged identically and his posture only slightly improved, but his face is completely different, almost unrecognizable – his eyes elongated and spread apart and his cheek bones accentuated; all traces of green-shadowed abstraction gone. Now the sailor sits in front of a glowing pink background instead one shaded in rough random lines of orange, blue, and green. Although “Young Sailor II” is now the more well-known of the two, at first Matisse was so insecure about this reinterpretation that he originally told people it was painted by the postman.
|“Young Sailor I”|
|“Young Sailor II”|
Both of these paintings sit side by side in Matisse: In Search of True Painting, the new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art opening on Tuesday, December 4th. It presents the artist as a perfectionist, constantly reworking the same compositions to see if they could be improved upon, by using a different set colors or tweaking the arrangement. It showcases the repetitive nature he was prone to as an artist, displaying some of his most famous paintings like “Young Sailor II” alongside the lesser-known masterpieces that were created first for inspiration, allowing you to compare them directly and trace his thought process from one interpretation to the next.
Read the rest of my review HERE on Woman Around Town.
And check out more photos from the gallery in my Flickr set here.