Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Moroccans Redux

Detail, Henri Matisse,  Les Marocains (The Moroccans), 1912-16, the Museum of Modern Art.

The new MoMA iPhone App has an audio guide to the Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-17 exhibition that discusses The Moroccans. Go to the Tours tab > Special Exhibitions > Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-17 > The Moroccans (South Gallery). I was surprised to learn that what I see as Moroccans praying (see photo above), Matisse himself insisted is melons and leaves. From the audio tour, an unidentified voice that sounds like John Elderfield, the co-curator, says: I know some people have thought that what Matisse says are melons and leaves are in fact the Moroccans, but Matisse is insistent that they are not.

I should have known that an Art Historian of the caliber of John Elderfield would not have missed what I thought was such an obvious image. Nevertheless, this is the first time in any of the literature that I researched on the painting (including this exhibition catalog) that any mention is made that Matisse himself was insistent it’s melons and leaves and not Moroccans praying. I still don’t buy it!
It’s a useful (and free) app, btw. Here a description from the App Store:
Use the MoMA App to find out about current exhibitions, plan a visit, browse or search tens of thousands of works in the collection, take multimedia tours, or learn about artists and art terms. Take a photo through MoMA Snaps and send it to a friend, or choose your playlist to create a soundtrack for your MoMA visit. 


OrenStark said...

Jessica Smith and I went to this exhibit and I was particularly struck by the Moroccans and its use of black to signify empty space (at least I believe that's what the description said). We were also very interested in his brief switch to landscape and abstract subject matter. Beautiful exhibit!

Charles Kessler said...

I saw the show again yesterday and realized that Matisse not only used black to define space but also as another color that glows and breaths as much as his other colors. Uncanny!