Male Speaker 1

Here again is Erika Holmquist-Wall, Associate Curator of Paintings at the MIA and Exhibition Curator.

Erika Holmquist-Wall

In 1917 Matisse was only 50 years old, he had already experienced considerable success, he was very comfortable and well off financially. He was already being hailed as a modern master. He was always pushing himself, he had already pushed the boundaries of color and I think he didn’t want to feel complacent. So he leaves everything behind and he rents a hotel room in Nice on the Mediterranean Coast in Southern France, a small hotel room for the winter. He fell in love and for the rest of his life, he spent part of every year in Nice. It was the light, it was the color, it was probably the ease of living. I suppose we would all fall in love with Nice, if we were able to spend our winters there. All of sudden his art undergoes this incredible shift. At the same time that he is dialing things back, he is pushing it forward very subtly.

Many Matisse scholars kind of talk about, oh his Nice period as very sort of subdued or conservative become it often just features pretty girls in these interiors. And there is nothing quite shocking about it, they are very pleasant. You know, he has mastered color and now he is turning his attention to light. So a lot of these pictures that we are looking at, they are interiors, but they are also window scenes. So he is capturing the brilliance of the light outside and he is also working to capture how light diffuses, how light lands on objects, how it enhances. These paintings, they are still flooded with color, they are very intense. But now he is really working to play with light and how light plays on color. The light is both brilliant, it’s both filtered, it pervades the entire picture surface. There are no little dark shadows, there is no dark corners, that’s the key to understanding the Nice pictures from the 1920s.

Male Speaker 1

Select the green button to hear about Matisse’s introduction to Nice from Katherine Rothkopf, Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art. To learn more about the special qualities of natural light in Nice from Erika Holmquist-Wall press the red button. Choose the yellow button to hear insights on the painting, the music lesson.