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Cover for the book Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse

Modernist Against the Grain Catherine Bock-Weiss
  • Copyright: 2009
  • Dimensions: 7 x 10
  • Page Count: 260 pages
  • Illustrations: 10 color/30 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03512-3
Henri Matisse: Modernist Against the Grain makes an important contribution to the field, looking at Matisse from a variety of new angles and offering compelling readings of hitherto underexamined aspects of his life and of his work and reception.”
“[Henri Matisse: Modernist Against the Grain] makes an important contribution to a fuller understanding of the complete man and his entire work.”

What makes Henri Matisse a “modernist,” when so much of his work harks back to older French traditions and the artist himself never seems entirely at home in the twentieth century? Bock-Weiss addresses the paradox of Matisse’s status as a canonical modern artist, but one whose work and career cannot be mapped onto conventional histories of an insurrectionary modernism. She frames this issue by positioning the artist in surprising contexts: his manipulation of mass media in shaping his public image, his singular relationship with Gertrude Stein, and his painterly use of cinematic devices in the 1920s to respond to the crisis of cubism. Equally unprecedented is the author’s close examination of two major critical responses to Matisse’s work: a formalist defense by the Russian dance critic André Levinson, and the claim by Pierre Schneider and others that Matisse is a spiritual artist on the Byzantine/Islamic model. Providing neither a unified portrait of the artist nor a new definition of modernism itself, the author considers the many-faceted elements of the artist’s life, work, and reputation to present a comprehensive new framework for viewing both Matisse and modernism.

Catherine Bock-Weiss is Professor Emerita of Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of Henri Matisse and Neo-Impressionism, 1898–1908 (1981) and Henri Matisse: A Guide to Research (1996).


List of Illustrations



Part I. Matisse: The Man

1. The Media as Medium: Public Self-Portraits

2. “Brutal Egotism”: Gertrude Stein’s Matisse

Part II. Matisse: His Work

3. Strangers in Paradise: Bathers by a River

4. Chamber Music: Woman Before an Aquarium and Woman on a Rose Divan

Coda: Some Propositions Concerning Matisse’s Art of the 1920s

Part III. Matisse: His Critics

5. A Formalist Critique: A Dance Critic Looks at Matisse: André Levinson in 1929

6. A Vitalist Critique: Decoration and Spirituality: The Byzantine/Islamic Matisse





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