[audio:http://www.artmarketmonitor.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/NPR-on-Matisse-Radical-Invention.mp3|titles=NPR on Matisse, Radical Invention] NPR’s Fresh Air goes to MoMA for the Matisse show:
But in the four-year period this Matisse show investigates, that artist’s development emerges as much less linear, much less divided into straightforward chapters. Matisse seemed to be trying all sorts of different things at the same time, and he produced some of his greatest paintings. But it would be hard for anyone not an art historian to place the work in chronological order. Modern artists were trying to find new ways of looking at the world, moving away from depicting images in traditional three dimensions, discovering livelier and simpler — yet also more complex — ways to convey those images. Even before the central period stressed in this exhibit, we see Matisse experimenting with dimension, a kind of flattening process in which the images become less literal and more symbolic. One of his strangest and most original paintings, Bathers with Turtle, is from 1908, barely a year after Picasso’s tradition-shattering Demoiselles d’Avignon, in which the bodies of five women have been transformed from rounded human beings into fractured and contorted figures with African masks for faces. Matisse’s figures are even more mysterious: three simplified nudes, almost like a child’s drawing. He offers no explanation for why they’re feeding a turtle, or why one of them has her fingers stuffed into her mouth. How can we tell if this is a casual incident or a profound ritual? Does it matter? Horizontal bands of blue abstractly represent a backdrop of water and sky. It’s like Cezanne, but more radical. Modern art is just beginning.