Over the course of the ‘Matisse Drawing Life’ exhibition, The Drawing Room has been a space for observation, contemplation and interpretation. The three thematic displays of The Drawing Room have been informed by particular periods and places in Henri Matisse’s career and by his ‘palette of objects’ such as ceramic and glass vessels, textiles, Moroccan screens, tables and armchairs that regularly feature in his work.
The Academy section takes its cue from Matisse’s early classical training in drawing and painting, which he undertook in Paris in the 1890s and early 1900s. He perfected his technique in the studios of established painters such as Adolphe William Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau; attended life-drawing classes at the École des Beaux-Arts to master the depiction of the human figure; and studied the arts of antiquity during visits to the Musée du Louvre, where he copied paintings, plaster casts and marble sculptures.
The Studio is inspired by Matisse’s working environments in the South of France, where he occupied several studios in Nice and the surrounding areas. Photographs of Matisse at work during this period show windows shuttered or screened against the bright Mediterranean light, drawings pinned all over the walls, multiple surfaces covered with vases of flowers, cages filled with doves and songbirds, and a variety of still-life arrangements based on a familiar cast of objects – the striped armchair, the pewter jug, the ‘Tabac Royal’ jar, and the Moorish table.
Oceania is based on what was perhaps the greatest influence on Matisse’s art – his curiosity about different conditions of light. This curiosity drove him southwards, moving away from the muted grey light of northern France to the silvery Mediterranean light of Nice, travelling from there to Morocco and, eventually, to the United States and Tahiti.
Every day Matisse drew from life, and what he drew from his art was life itself.