Sunday, October 18, 2015

Chapter 15: Henri Matisse #3

Pleasure of an Henri Matisse Still Life

following is a free excerpt from Famous Artists' Cats: The Book

Still life paintings are a problem for cats. A big one. It starts with the word “still.”

George Visits Matisse / © Deborah Julian
In our other two Henri Matisse inspired entries in Famous Artists’ Cats, George got to luxuriate like a Persian noble while nude dancers whirled around him in ecstasy, and with Billy and Sam, he got to explore the wonders of goldfish in Matisse’s Paris studio, the River Seine flowing sweetly below.

When George was asked to pose inside a Matisse still life, the expression on his face tells you his feelings about it.

“What the heck?” it says, eyes popped open in anticipation.

Where are the dancers? Where are the fish, any fish?

When he got to visit Paul Cézanne’s still life, Billy and Sam tagged along for company. Paul Gauguin’s still life got shunted off to the side to let George join the painters three puppies in a delicious tub of milk.

In the Matisse, the pears and berries, just sit there, fulfilling their mission: nature morte, nature dead, still and offering him nothing more than a good sniff. 

What makes the painting wonderful, for everyone except George, is its powerful blue atmosphere. The blues are so vibrantly intense, only the drawn in lines create a table top for our favorite cat model who otherwise might fly off into infinity.

Look at George’s paws. He’s clinging to the table for dear life, half-expecting to slide off. And his radar dish ears… His ears seem to be waiting for an alarm to go off. Maybe in his internal warning system, it already has.

And there’s something he hasn’t yet noticed that soon to make him excited.

Henri Matisse wasn’t capable of finishing any work of art without its having a lively ingredient or two. This still life, into which George was talked into perching, is no exception.

Behind the blue table on which George has been persuaded to pose, Matisse has added a window, a window so highly abstract that some of his berries seem to be leading a charge through it to the great outdoors. There, flying straight out of an engagement with Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, a fleet of crows arrives with, finally, a little excitement for the cat.

George will soon be stimulated by the arrival of the crows, and the birds themselves will be pleased that there is window separating them from the cat, no matter what the berries think.


David Stone
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