Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Matisse’s Marguerite: Model Daughter

The Baltimore Museum of Art presented a special exhibition of prints, drawings, paintings, and sculptures that provide a fascinating glimpse of Henri Matisse’s relationship with his only daughter, Marguerite. On view September 18, 2013 – January 19, 2014, Matisse’s Marguerite: Model Daughter brings together more than 40 works from the BMA and other public and private collections to show Marguerite over the course of 45 years. Matisse made more portraits of his daughter than of all the other members of his family combined. He often shows a strong personal absorption with the character of his daughter—and reveals something about himself in the process of creating his art.

The exhibition was organized by BMA Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs Jay Fisher and presented in the Cone Collection galleries.

“Matisse approached these portraits of Marguerite with an intimacy that’s not necessarily seen in his other works,” said Jay Fisher, BMA Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs. “Most of his models were often shown preoccupied, looking off into a different direction away from the viewer. They aren’t as much the subject of the painting as they are in service to other artistic ideas. Matisse was much more direct and sensitive to Marguerite’s features and character.”

Born in 1894, Marguerite soon appears in sketches of a little girl of 6 or 7. By the time she was 12, she was a frequent participant in the life of his studio and would often take on important roles in major paintings. Many portraits of her were breakthrough works like

Marguerite (1916)

that reveal an advance in Matisse’s artistic vision, but she also appeared in pictures of family life and with other models such as

Two Women in a Landscape, Vallée du Loup (1922).

Matisse brings much of himself and his own feelings to the portraits of his daughter. Sometimes she appears younger than she is, as if Matisse were reliving her childhood, and sometimes older, as if he were anticipating her aging.

Marguerite shielded her father from many of the distractions that could bring him away from his art. She was most often the contact to Matisse’s collectors.

From an intgeresting post:

Henri Matisse, Portrait of Marguerite Asleep, 1920. oil on canvas, Private Collection

In Portrait of Marguerite Asleep, she is oblivious of her surroundings, possibly taking a nap while on a summer visit to the Normandy coast with Matisse where the painting was executed in 1920. A few years later she married art critic Georges Duthuit and essentially ended her creative collaboration with her father.

Then, during World War II, Marguerite worked for the French resistance and was eventually arrested by the Gestapo. After being imprisoned and tortured, she was deported to a concentration camp but escaped en route. In spite of her ordeal, Marguerite survived to the age of 87; she was in the process of completing an extensive catalgoue of Matisse’s art just before she died.

From another review: (some images added)

Henri Matisse's "Little Girl, Flowered Blouse," 1920

Matisse depicted his daughter for the final time in 1945, after her ordeal during the war (Matisse died in 1954).

Whether depicted as a girl or a chic woman of the 1920s

("Marguerite Wearing a Hat," a 1918 painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is a gem in the exhibit),

Marguerite comes across as a vibrant, endearing character — sometimes charming, sometimes solemn, always full of nuances and possibilities.

The ribbon she wore around her neck to cover up the tracheotomy scar is a haunting feature of these earlier works.

In the 1945 portraits, Marguerite has the look of a woman who has experienced much — too much of the bad in the world — yet still exudes a powerful life force. No wonder Matisse felt compelled to draw her.

In his book "Matisse Portraits," John Klein suggested that the artist explored an aspect of himself in portraying Marguerite, "as if she gave him access to something of himself that he could not apprehend more directly. … By affirming her individuality, he could also reflect on and amplify his own."

In a bittersweet corner of the exhibit hang a couple of Marguerite's surviving paintings, which reveal an eye for color and form. After learning that some people mistook her work for her father's, she destroyed most of what she had created.

From still another interesting review:

His Marguerite appears in his works at age 6. As a sickly child, she required a tracheotomy, becoming a captive model for her father, who he drew with a ribbon around her neck to conceal the scar. As a teenager, she became a constant presence in his studio, dressing a model in “La Toilette” (1905)and serving as a muse herself in “Marguerite Writing” (1906).

He later depicts her as a grown woman in more famous portraits including “Marguerite” 1916, and “Marguerite Wearing a Hat” both on loan from the Met. More than a muse, she was a manager of his studio and the conduit to his most important patrons, corresponding for decades with Gertrude Stein and Etta and Claribel Cone, the Baltimore-based sisters who donated 500 of their 3,000 Matisse works to the BMA.

From the Museum of Modern Art:

Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)

Matisse turned this intimate scene of his daughter, Marguerite, reading into a riot of color—her hair is painted in nearly as many colors as the fruit in the foreground. The artist developed this bold palette in the summer of 1905 in the southern port town of Collioure, France.